should you put stay-at-home parenting on your resume, I don’t want to train my new manager, and more

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

1. Should you put stay-at-home parenting on your resume?

I was scrolling through LinkedIn today for work and saw this listed in someone’s experience:

Stay-at-Home Mom
Feb 2005 – May 2015
Volunteer position requiring training in child development and behavior. Job required strong skills in time management, dispute resolution, communication, accounting, procurement, and cost reduction. I was required to work with no supervision or coaching while making fast decisions regarding the family organization.

I don’t know if it is on her resume but I thought it was a cheeky yet truthful way of filling the stay-at-home-mom job gap. Does it belong on a resume or LinkedIn?

No. It would be different if it were just a brief mention to explain why the person was out of the workforce for X years. But the issue here is that it’s written in a way that frames caring for one’s own kids as a professional job rather than a personal one.

It’s not that parenting isn’t hard or valuable work; it is. But as a general rule, work that you do for your family or household doesn’t belong on a resume. Largely that’s because you’re not accountable in the same way you would be at a paid job. An employer also has no way of knowing if you did terribly at it (and they can’t find out since it’s not an area that would be appropriate for them to probe into in an interview or with references). Additionally, if something is a common life activity, it’s generally not going to be resume-worthy (and indeed, you don’t see working parents listing their own child-rearing work).

Related: can I put running my household on my resume?

2. I don’t want to train my new manager

About six months ago, my direct supervisor (Phyllis) retired, leaving no one in her position (we normally have two people at her level doing complementary jobs). I work in government, so it’s taken a while to hire even one person to replace them both, and the person they hired (Pam) doesn’t yet have a start date. We’ve had people filling in, but for the past few months I’ve been handling most of the responsibilities for my program. I’m fully capable of doing this higher-level work (I’ve done it before in a different location), but it’s been a lot to take on, especially because I get no bump in pay or title.

I was interviewed for Phyllis’ position, but didn’t get it. I understand they went with Pam because she has significantly more experience than I do, but from what I know Pam has never worked in my agency before. I have worked in this type of department in both this agency and the private sector, and I know that the procedures, software, etc. in this agency are often drastically different and present a significant learning curve. I entered the agency about three years ago and had to learn all of the processes and quirks with very little help because I had an ineffective supervisor (not Phyllis). It was difficult (lots of tears), but I’m now pretty proficient and some people in other locations even come to me for help with some of our processes.

Since Phyllis left, I’ve been reporting to her boss (Michael) who, because of how our larger department works, knows very little about our program. I am one of only two people at our location with the institutional knowledge to train Pam, and the other person now has a different job entirely. I know if I let it happen, I will be the one guiding Pam through the convoluted maze of our specific program. How do I tell Michael preemptively that I don’t think it would be fair for them to ask me to train my new supervisor? I’m wondering if my bitterness over not getting the job is clouding my judgment, but having to train someone who is supposed to be the one training me feels like a slap in the face, especially because of the drastic raise in pay and benefits that I am not receiving.

You can’t really say that. It’s very, very normal to be expected to show your new manager how your team does things. You’re not training her in the substance of how to do her job — you’re training her on your department-specific procedures. For example, if she were hired to manage fundraising, I’d expect that you might need to train her on how to use the internal donor database, common processes your team uses for mailings, how to use the finicky calendaring system, and so forth. I wouldn’t expect you to train her in how to develop fundraising strategy, set the team’s goals, or manage your performance; those are skills she’s presumably bringing with her, and the reason she’s been hired. But the stuff that’s specific to how you do things internally is normal to train her on.

It does sound like you have a legitimate beef about the significant increase in your workload and responsibility, and it’s reasonable to ask for that to be recognized (whether with a one-time bonus or a raise or so forth). But you can’t really say “I’m not going to show our new manager how we do things” without it reflecting very badly on you.

3. Strange recruiter interaction

I just had a strange interaction with a recruiter from a big name recruiting firm. She messaged me on LinkedIn claiming a former colleague from Company X had “spoke[n] highly” of me and described an attractive job without listing an employer name. When we finally got on a call, she refused to tell me who the former colleague was. Also, rather than telling me about the job opening or identifying the employer, she asked me in an open-ended way to describe what I was looking for. I gave a quick summary of the two kinds of opportunities that could entice me to leave my current job. She declared the original job wasn’t a good fit because I prefer to be remote, didn’t mention any other roles, and wrapped up by wishing me luck on another job I mentioned I’m currently interviewing for.

I would just write this off as a recruiter with a very strange approach, but I’ve worked in recruiting and my spidey sense is tingling. Could my current employer have put her up to this? I wouldn’t put it past my grandboss! No recruiter would agree to do this, right?? Please tell me I’m just being paranoid.

It’s unlikely that she was on a fact-finding mission for your boss. It’s more likely that she was engaging in that common recruiter behavior of not disclosing the client/employer name without first establishing that you’re interested, either because she doesn’t want you applying on your own (since she works on commission) or because the employer wants discretion at this stage. It’s also possible that the colleague who spoke highly of you was fictitious — that she uses that as bait to get potential candidates on the phone — because otherwise it’s weird that she wouldn’t tell you who they were (although it’s also possible that that person asked not to be named so their own search remains secret).

4. Should I delete a short stint from my LinkedIn profile?

I started a new job, and I updated my LinkedIn profile that same week. Unfortunately, three weeks later, the company downsized, and I was laid off. I was nervous about being visibly unemployed on LinkedIn while applying to new jobs, so I left the company on my profile as “2022 – Present.” Now, I’ve successfully found a new role, and I’m wondering if I should delete the other one from my profile entirely (leaving a five-month gap in employment), or if I should amend it to show my actual start/end dates (one month apart) with a note about the layoffs. It was not a big enough company to make headlines for layoffs, but it is respected in the industry.

Remove it. Three weeks isn’t enough time to strengthen your profile, and the short stint will just raise questions that will detract from the stronger points you want to highlight. (I’d keep it off your resume for the same reason.)

5. How can we make our department appear more occupied?

My team had some success with a “Bartleby the Scrivener” tactic of simply ignoring orders to work in the office. However, the boom has been lowered — we’ve been told we need to keep up appearances because other teams have complained that we’re not coming in.

Our bosses don’t really care and have said if people have a specific need to stay home on a given day, that’s fine. The key metric is that our desk area look generally occupied when office busybodies walk by.

One team member suggested we decorate for holidays to increase the “lived-in” look of our cubicle pod. I’d love to hear suggestions (both serious and wacky) from the readers on how to maximize the appearance of attendance, using less than 100% of our team on any given day!

(Ridiculous side note: the building was painstakingly crafted to maximize hip collaboration spaces, outdoor seating with strong wifi, etc. Plus a lot of us will be in conference rooms attending meetings most of the day. So we could all be in the office 40 hours a week and still not be seen in our cubicle area!)

Scarecrows? Holograms?

I’m happy to throw it out to the readers, but it sucks that your bosses are going with “your desk area needs to look occupied” as their key metric rather than pushing back against the office busybodies. I realize they might have higher priorities for where to spend their capital right now, or might have correctly judged that pushing back won’t get them anywhere and risks drawing more attention to your team’s quiet rebellion — and your team might prefer this plan to the alternative — but it still sucks.

{ 686 comments… read them below }

    1. SnickersKat*

      For #5, what about buying a few very cheap coats, scarves, purses, hats, etc from Goodwill and draping the seasonally appropriate ones on the desks? This way it’ll look like people are just at meetings, since clearly they have their hat/coat/bag at their desk.

      1. PotsPansTeapots*

        I heard an NPR story a few years back saying this was common practice at a firm that had a lot of on-paper employees. They’d stop in at the office to leave a jacket or umbrella behind, do whatever non-work activities they were doing, and stop in at quitting time to take their jackets and such home.

        1. Erin*

          Lololol all of these suggestions for adding coats & bags to desk spaces for that “lived in look” are making me cackle this morning! Also, the rotation calendar for folks to swap things out seasonally is hilarious.

          Can I pls be part of this?? I work in the fashion industry, and I have lots of samples that I cannot think of a better use for!

          Please send pix, preferably a time lapse of the seasonal changes, and let us know how long you were able to keep this going :)

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Have to say, the first thing that popped into my mind was just this – weather appropriate outerwear at a couple desks – moving between the desks, and also changing up just a bit so it doesn’t look suspicious that all of you wear the same two-three hats/coats.

        Maybe also add in a few abandoned travel mugs and newspapers. Just enough clutter that comes with commuting to an office. Could help in warmer months when coats/hats/winter gear aren’t needed (or for warmer weather climates).

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Strong disagree. This is something that could easily be managed with the one person each day who comes in moving things around.

            1. Susie*

              It seems from the letter that no one on OP5’s team come in regularly and if people are complaining, I doubt they would agree to rearrange the teams items to make it look like they are there.

              1. Former Gifted Kid*

                My read was more that the whole team is never in the office on any given day, but there is regularly someone from the team in the office at any given time. Since they seem to be up to hatching whacky schemes to ensure that they don’t have to come in regularly, I don’t think they would object to whoever is in the office that day rearranging the office jackets to pretend they are all there.

          2. Lenora Rose*

            It sounds like something that takes 5 minutes at home to pack and 5 minutes in the office to lay out; if anyone from the team has reason to be there anyhow, it wouldn’t be a lot of effort. The real question is, what is the commute like?

          3. OhNo*

            Hard disagree. I actually had that role in my department for a while, when the admin was insistent that we “look open”, but it most certainly was not safe to actually be open. It took maybe five minutes out of my day, max, but I was still able to cover for a department of six for about six months with no one who cared any the wiser.

            FWIW, what I did was pretty simple. Every day I unlocked and opened office doors, turned some lights on, and made sure to wave and say hi to at least one or two folks that I spotted to make sure there was evidence that Someone Was Here. Once a week or so, I also periodically shuffled things around on the most obvious desk, and made sure everything was dusted enough to look well-used.

            It might also be worth having a plan in case a person stops by the cubes looking for someone. I did once have to “lie” to someone from admin who came in looking for my boss. I just said that I wasn’t sure where she had gone or when she’d be back, gave my boss a heads’ up so she could email them to say “sorry I missed you”, and that was it.

      3. Miette*

        Perhaps a corollary to this could be to leave weather-appropriate office-only accessories around. For example, in my old job where it was very cold, many women kept shawls and fingerless gloves around. Then it’s as easy as having whatever colleagues do occasionally come to the office walk around and rearrange things slightly.

      4. GammaGirl1908*

        I always have a “stunt purse” at work. The bag that travels home and back with me stays at my desk, but if I’m stepping out, I throw my wallet and phone into the stunt purse. Anyone glancing into my office knows I’m still here, because my bag is still here.

      5. Applesauced*

        This is similar to how my great-aunt housesits for us.
        We asked her to check the mail, and she took it upon herself to stage elaborate vignettes throughout the house multiple times a day (she’d come by in the morning and put boxes of cereal and bowls on the counter, then in the afternoon, replace that with wine glasses and a “full” shopping bag)

        1. KateM*

          A friend had a neighbour keeping an eye on house while friend was on vacation and that included putting some of their own trash into friend’s can and throwing a ball in yard to another place daily.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Me too. There is something very sweet about wanting the actual house and rooms not to feel neglected

      6. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Plus stack a bunch of messy papers all over the desk, leave some coffee rings on some of the papers, buy a fake cup of coffee and set it on the desk . . .

        1. OhNo*

          I actually love the coffee idea. If even one person is in the office, have them get half a cup of coffee whenever is most convenient and leave it in the most visible spot. Nothing makes an office look lived-in like a half-drunk cup of coffee going cold on the corner of a desk.

          1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

            I’d fill the break room sink with a few dirty cups each morning. Don’t need to even brew a pot of coffee or waste it (unless someone up and cleans the dishes) just keep the number of dirty mugs as your team size and rotate out new dirty dishes each day.

            1. They Called Me Skeletor*

              I can see this being the perfect place for all of those corporate gift travel mugs that everyone has.

        2. Eater of Hotdish*

          I was 100% coming in to suggest this. Coffee rings and all.

          Heck, an empty mug with traces of black coffee in it can sit for a looooong time without becoming objectionable to be around. I know this because grad school.

          1. VeggieBubba*

            Wish I’d seen this earlier. Can’t wait for the letter to AAM about the coworker who drank someone else’s coffee but didn’t realize it was dry ice.

      7. Abogado Avocado*

        Exactly! And picture frames. Goodwill sells those very cheaply!

        You can print out pictures of fictitious family members from the internet, photos of famous people (with maybe a fake inscription — “I’ll never forget you, xxoo, George” — from the famous person?) or put your family photos in the frames. It definitely will look like someone is using each cubicle.

      8. Anna*

        Remember that part of Home Alone where Kevin tries to make it look like he’s having a party by using all manner of mannequins and cardboard cutouts of movie stars and then he ties strings to their hands and straps one to a toy train to make it look like they’re moving? Yeah. That’s my suggestion.

        1. JustaTech*

          I had a professor in college who joked that he used a cardboard cutout to make it look like he was working super late (for the like three profs who were total night owls) in the years before he got tenure.

          At least, I hope he was joking.

          1. Gumby*

            There are stories of people using mannequins or even just stuffed clothes (like a scarecrow) to cheat and use the carpool lanes in CA. Probably wouldn’t work in an office where people can look in your cubicle/office for more than a few seconds.

            Though, to be fair, the carpool dummy is generally not necessary as the dude who spent years trying to get pulled over for violating the carpool rules with the articles of incorporation for his company in the passenger seat to make a point about Citizens United (IIRC) found out.

            1. nm*

              I’ve also heard of people using dressed up passenger-seat mannequins as a “strategy” to keep people from breaking into their cars–the idea being that a would-be thief would see what looks like a person through the shaded glass, and decide to go elsewhere. No clue if this actually works!

          2. Journalist Wife*

            After my husband moved out, I hated coming home (or having my teenagers come home) to an empty house, so I repurposed my life-sized Captain Kirk cardboard figure by moving him around the house near various windows throughout the week to keep away the creepy neighborhood transient who camps out in our subdivision for long periods of time when he’s tweaking.

            1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              The last time my husband and I went out to eat, we were greeted by a life-sized cutout of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson when we walked into the restaurant we’d chosen. That dude is BIG! If Captain Kirk doesn’t work, I’d try to get my hands on one of those. I’ll bet he would scare away just about anybody! 8-D

              1. VeggieBubba*

                On another advice column (maybe reddit) someone used one of those to catch their sister in law snooping in their bedroom. They got busted when it scared her and she screamed.

      9. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        I worked at a faltering company that had more space than people so the owner would stage desks before client visits so we looked more occupied. Cardigans, mugs, papers, turning on monitors, the works.

      10. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Yeah, and maybe some of those dry erase boards saying “in meeting, but checking email intermittently throughout the day. If one person is in there each day, the person of the day can rearrange things or change up the messages on the signs, or move around half consumed water bottles and open snack bags of chips (just put something inside that is not food but will make it look like there are still some chips left in the bag).

    2. CatCat*

      #5, the character of Kevin in the movie “Home Alone” really mastered this. You’ll need to study the film.

        1. Lab Boss*

          Look, if the busybodies want to come into the office area to snoop up close, who are we to tell OP what options for discouraging them are off the table? :D

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            Swear to god. Maybe manager of upset employees can tell them to stay in their lane. Maybe OP’s manager can tell his peer to stay in his lane.
            “Please don’t give your kid cookies in his lunch. We don’t allow sugar and it upsets our kid when others have it.”

            1. tabihabibi*

              Unless the problem is really that the other team’s manager is the one being inflexible. I used to be on a team that had flexibility taken away “because other employees complained” but it didn’t take much sleuthing to discover the “complaint” was asking for the same flexibility and upsetting their manager.

      1. yala*

        Literally exactly where my mind went. I resent having “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” stuck in my head in September.

        1. Paper Mulberry*

          I referenced this scene in a comment on the weekend thread and am now mortified to realize that the song I quoted was not, in fact, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” There goes my childhood.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      LW5, I’m thinking an elaborate mannequins-and-ropes situation like in Ferris Bueller or Home Alone.

      1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

        Maybe we should all watch 9 to 5 again. Remember the ladies locked the boss up in his house, but pretended that he was coming in to the office? When somebody was looking for him, I remember Dolly Parton said, “Oh, you just missed him!”

        1. Journalist Wife*

          Sadly, the salient component of Dolly Parton’s strategy in 9 to 5 involved a half-burned-through cigar smoldering in the ash tray for ages to make it look like Mr. Hart had intended to be around for long periods of time on a given day.

          That wouldn’t work in most offices, although I’m dying to know (and read!) about any offices where this *could* be pulled off in the year 2022!

    4. Heidi*

      For Letter #5, I would refer to “Home Alone” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” for examples of how to make a place look occupied. If I wanted people to think I was in my space, I’d leave a sweater on the back of my chair and a bag on the desk. But the people in my office aren’t quite as attentive to the comings and goings of others as the OP’s coworkers.

    5. Forensic13*

      For #5, all I could think of was the cardboard cutouts etc. that Kevin McAllister uses in Home Alone.

      Could you leave some of your least favorite supplies at your desks? A mug half-filled with water? Cardigan slung over your chairs? A bucket of paint balanced on the door that falls on the busybodies??? (This is getting Home Alone again.)

      Bribe people who do go in to hang out in your office and ruck it up? Make your boss stay in there?

        1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          A coffee mug that moves every day is classic; I bet one person could move a lot of coffee cups.

            1. LW #5*

              Love it! That’s very clever – seems like a level of verisimilitude above mugs & cardigans, and would make use of my stash of “just in case” glasses with old prescriptions.

            2. KM*

              Excellent suggestion. I like the combo of sweater on back of chair, glasses, coffee mug and decoy commuting shoes under the desk (if that’s a thing in your office).

            3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              Dollar Tree sells very acceptable reading glasses, to the point that both of my parents bought pairs to leave at strategic places in their houses (such as next to the microwave) so they they wouldn’t have to go get their “real” reading glasses. More than suitable for leaving in offices.

              1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                I actually got my husband a box of those Dollar Tree glasses in the magnification he needs because he’s forever losing them. Probably will get another box in a few months.

        2. it's-a-me*

          A half-full plate of mini cupcakes, which will also attract people from other offices, thus making the office seem more occupied that way as well!

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Nah, it brings them in too close. You want them far enough away to not notice that there’s no coffee in the mugs.

      1. Koalafied*

        I love that 4 people all instantly thought and commented at the same time about that Home Alone scene. Talk about a cultural touchstone!

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        “Make your boss stay in there” is a good actual solution tbh. If they aren’t willing to defend WFH and think it’s important to give the appearance of “butts in seats” it really should be their butts!

        1. BethDH*

          From what OP said, we don’t know whether boss is defending this or not. They’re not successful in getting the company top level to agree. My own boss pushed a lot against mandated return to office for our “department” and was ultimately unsuccessful.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Same here. My boss is an EVP, and she and the other executives have been trying for over a year to the CEO to agree to full WFH for some departments/positions, but it hasn’t been successful. We are hybrid, which is a big win over having to be in full time. She agrees my department is a good candidate for full WFH, but there isn’t anything she can do about it. Even though some people on my team are unhappy about coming in, they comply. We all know hybrid would be taken away if we decided to scam the system and got caught (and getting caught would be easy since many things can be tracked, from door badges/codes, logins from different locations, cameras, etc.). The hammer wouldn’t come down just on my boss, but all of us. And we wouldn’t attempt to scam the system anyway. It’s much less effort to just come in as we’re supposed to (a couple days a week). Plus, I’d never put my boss in that position.

          2. Anne Elliot*

            We don’t know if the manager(s) have tried to advocate for more WFH or not, we just know that “the boom has been lowered.” As a manager, I think the error here was for the manager to say “we have to make it look like we’re here, other divisions are complaining,” as opposed to “Upper management has directed we all must work from the office three days a week, so we need to draw up a schedule to do that.”

            It’s not cute to avoid directives through the “tee hee” nonsense being advocated for here, but it seems like OP’s manager has encouraged that by communicating Management’s directives in a way that appears to endorse ignoring or avoiding them, i.e. “we’ve been told we need to keep up appearances” and “the key metric is that our desk area look generally occupied when office busybodies walk by.” So I personally think OP’s manager will deserve whatever consequences he or she gets when the idiotic ruses of moving coffee cups around are inevitably seen through. Unfortunately, those consequences may land directly on their staff, because if I was upper management and I got wind of this nonsense, every person in that unit would be back in the office 40 hours a week.

            1. Marian*

              Seriously? If you found out a manager was letting their staff slide, you’d take it out on the staff? And do it by putting them in their chairs 40 hours a week when apparently they can work effectively from home anyway?

              If someone in my upper management was that petty and vindictive, I’d leave.

              1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*


                What a horrible attitude. I didn’t see any indication that people aren’t working well at home, so it really just reeks of a resentful, vengeful, “These people can work at home, but I’m maaaaaad they’re not working in the office, and how dare they come up with a clever way around it to keep working effectively at home! I MUST PUNISH THIS!”

                1. Anne Elliot*

                  It’s not up to you as a Monday Morning Quarterback to decide if they are or are not working effectively from home. It’s not even relevant if they really are! Management has directed that they come back to the office for some portion of their schedule, regardless of whether they are working effectively at home or not. This discussion has been had multiple times here, how unfortunate that some companies — many companies — are bringing people back regardless of how effective they are at working from home.

                  Once that decision is made, Bartleby’s refrain of “I would prefer not to” is not actually an option, unless you, like Bartleby, want to end up sitting out on the curb. For me, the issue is not the justice of Management’s decision but rather the ridiculous response of trying to fake your attendance when you’re not really there.

                  Faking your attendance is not “a clever way to keep working from home,” it’s deceitful. “Working around” a management directive is not the province of an employee. This is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, and I will die on this hill.

              2. Anne Elliot*

                “If you found out a manager was letting their staff slide, you’d take it out on the staff?” No, if I found out that STAFF were colluding to PRETEND to be present when there was an expectation that they would be present but they weren’t, but participating in such nonsense as moving jackets and cups around, I’d put the STAFF back in the office, absolutely. And the manager too.

                “And do it by putting them in their chairs 40 hours a week when apparently they can work effectively from home anyway?” “Apparently” according to whom? Upper Management does not agree that they can work effectively from home, they have directed that they return to the office for some portion of the work week, but rather that do as they have been directed — regardless of whether they agree with it or not, because it’s not up to them — they are engaging in subversive, juvenile behavior to make it appear like they are present when they aren’t. With the apparent complicity of their manager. Since they cannot be trusted to do as they have been directed, but rather would spend their energy making it appear like they are cooperating when they are not — damn right they all come back, and full time. Maybe we can transition back to a hybrid schedule when there’s some indication they have the maturity and professionalism to work within one.

                It’s not petty and it’s not vindictive. It is a strong response to a completely unacceptable behavior. Moving stuff around the office to make it look like you’re there when you’re not? I mean, is this entire thread for real? Completely unacceptable. Any employee who would engage in that sort of ridiculous behavior would be more than welcome to leave. I work in an office, not a middle school.

                1. cactus lady*

                  Idk, how good were they at working from home? If they were good and productive why do they have to be back? I don’t necessarily agree with all this, but I also disagree that being in the office full time will accomplish anything (other than making you feel better, I guess?).

                2. Marian*

                  O0f. Yes, I agree the proposed responses in this thread are immature. But according to the OP, their direct manager is satisfied with the current arrangement. Any response from above should start with the manager, not the reports. You may work in an office, but your proposed response treats the reports like kindergartners – needing to earn you trust back because you don’t like how they are being managed.

                  And yes, absolutely petty and vindictive to mandate additional in-office hours because of this behavior rather than start by holding them to the current standard with better management. Absolutely ridiculous.

                3. Emily*

                  The division I know that is currently disobeying the directive from on high, to come back to the office, with the approval of their managers, is doing so because they know they could find other WFH jobs and they’d be difficult to replace. And their managers know this as well, which is why they’re not enforcing it. There’s no alternative here for management which involves getting the current quality of staff at the current price in the office. I am sure A Point Could Be Made About Professionalism by making them all come in full-time, but it’d be a short-lived point.

                  Sometimes you don’t get to have everything you want in the people who work for you. You can value “obeys orders”, but a lot of obeying orders is a function of not having better options, so that’s who you’re going to get.

                4. Anne Elliot*

                  Sure, you can do it if you can get away with it. “We’re too high value to replace” is a powerful position to be operating from. Seems like a gamble to me though, and one it’s really odd to see a manager encouraging, rather than straight-forwardly advocating for their staff with Management. Maybe it’s sector specific; I work in government, and not in an area where anyone could not be replaced. I also completely understand why this pisses off their colleagues (dismissed as “busybodies”), who apparently are not valuable enough to get away with faffing around with directives the apply to everyone else.

                5. Curmudgeon in California*

                  Those employees will probably find other work. I know I would rather than work for someone with your attitude.

                  It is totally petty, vindictive, and nothing more than an egotistical power flex on the part of management.

                  The management is the ones behaving like it’s a middle school, by judging productivity on whether people have their butts in seats in some shitty open plan. Your attitude is that of a dinosaur.

                6. LB*

                  Play stupid games (making people come in just to keep up appearances), win stupid prizes (malicious compliance).

              3. cactus lady*

                One of my peers did this to her direct report’s staff. The direct report was letting her staff have a more flexible schedule than my peer wanted them to have. So when she found out she brought each staff member into her office individually to YELL AT THEM. It was awful. I actually complained about this peer to our boss for a different reason, and did bring up how wrong I thought that was. If you manage a manager, you bring up issues with them to resolve with their team, and only step in if they aren’t doing it and aren’t receptive to coaching.

              4. Curmudgeon in California*

                So would I. The point is that those people and their manager are operating just fine from home. Demanding “butts in seats” is an upper management power flex (and a dick move), and has very little to do with making the company more productive.

            2. Alice*

              OK, let’s imagine that things escalate and upper management decides to fire the manager and discipline the deceitful staff, some of whom then leave for other jobs that either allow WFH or communicate more effectively about why in-office work is required. Now there’s a lot of turnover and some disgruntled (whether that’s fair or not for them to feel that way) employees.
              Then what happens? At what point do we start to say, it’s a core competency of leadership to generate staff buy in to the organization’s policies?
              The best scenario would be for OP and colleagues to get new jobs asap; everyone will be better off.

            3. Just in case*

              Yikes! Bezos, is that you? :D

              I think what these people might prefer to do, rather than work for a tyrant who only cares about appearances, is look for a more reasonable company.
              I would love for the manager to find a better company and take his entire team. Then the upper management who is so obsessed with butts in seats can deal with hiring an entirely new staff.

            4. Big Bank*

              I think the comment section of ideas is fun, but I do agree with you that if this is being done actually seriously, it’s problematic. Whether or not the directive is valuable, it’s clear and failing to follow it is insubordination. I feel pretty confident that the manager at least could be fired for putting up the ruse, and WFH privileges fully revoked for others. I think it’s fair to keep this in mind! If you want to roll the dice because not following a directive is that important to you, just be aware of consequences. Some of those consequences may also be other staff feeling annoyed that you’re doing it, while they still come in to office even though they too may disagree with the directive. I’ve seen enough staff squabbles about unfairness to know that even if upper management wants to ignore your ruse, they may not be able to without hurting other staff morale. Would this make them double back and give the complainers WFH expansion? Perhaps, but if they are this staunch on in office presence even after all the data and last few years of it working, they may be set in this opinion.

              I know at my work they are starting to crack down on in office work a minimum number of days. The suggestions here would never work because our key card entry is being used for metrics. A team doing this will be found out easily. And I’m not sure what good excuse they’d have for defying the CEO, without an on file accomodations for it. “I didn’t agree” doesn’t cut the mustard for this.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                Well, a company that requires people to risk their lives without a true need probably will get the employees they deserve in the long run. IOTW, when they push on this the people who are the best workers will leave for greener, more flexible pastures.

                If a company is spending IT and other time tracking how often you are in the office it seems that some big wig’s ego is awful wrapped up in having butts in seats to give the illusion of productivity. It’s a waste, ultimately, because the people who really don’t like risking their lives just to hear their desk neighbor blither about sportsball or talk loudly on their speakerphone are going to be getting new job remotely. All they will have gained is extra expense tracking “compliance” and extra turnover, and probably the same or less productivity.

          3. LW #5*

            My boss, their boss, and their boss all pushed back and do not agree with the directive to be in office, then when that was unsuccessful instituted the “we don’t care about the letter of the law unless someone calls us on it” approach, but then someone (presumably people at or near the c-suite) called us on it after busybody complaints floated up to them. :(

            1. Anne Elliot*

              Respectfully, it doesn’t matter if all those people do not agree with the directive if the directive still stands. And, also respectfully, if it is understood that the directive applies to everyone, and your coworkers reasonably notice that your section is not obeying it while everyone else has to, they are not “busybodies” by registering that that feels very unfair.

              1. cactus lady*

                This isn’t the Navy, they can push back in whatever way they choose. Including the coworkers who are instead choosing to complain. Will it work? Maybe, maybe not. I’m guessing the bosses are trying to prioritize staff retention rather than blindly following a directive. I manage a great team in a niche field and it’s hard to find people with good experience in this area (and since we have to be in office part time, expanding our applicant pool beyond this geographic area is not going to happen, though I’ve pushed for that too).

                This whole thing has really highlighted to me how much more important it is to some employers that staff *obey orders* and *look like they’re working* rather than actually assessing the work they are doing. My company has assumed the position that you have and it’s driven out most of the senior managers. It’s not an effective management strategy at all, unless your goal is that everyone does what you say (spoiler alert, people don’t like working under that model). I just recently started job searching myself, though I feel guilty about leaving my team.

                1. LW #5*

                  Please tell me the Navy comment was a Persuasion reference as you are replying to Anne Elliot!

                  Our team probably is more difficult to replace than some other might be, for what its worth. In fact, we have several remote members in other states even though it’s “against the rules” because there was no way to fill the positions with qualified people locally. Which makes this rule all the more stupid.

                  I do resent the “a$$ in seat = productive” approach and to the extent that other workers may have (perhaps inadvertantly or reluctantly) implicated us in attempting to resist it I’m actually sympathetic toward them. The real problem is the executives making this rule and not providing reasons for it. (I suspect it’s sunk cost fallacy about their fancy building rather than actual business needs.)

                2. Anne Elliot*

                  I have not assumed any position on whether WFH is or is not more effective in this or any business case for any group of employees. Beyond my own office, how would I know? My position is that responding to directives you disagree with by mounting some guerrilla campaign of covert disobedience is a strategy that, in the workplace, is almost always going to ultimately prove to be a very bad idea.

              2. Alice*

                FWIW, I comply exactly with my company’s partial on-site requirement, even though I really dislike it, and even though other people in my department are apparently taking the Bartleby approach. (I didn’t actually know that, because I have I have no interest in wandering around the office to see where people are working. They reply to my emails and Slack messages and that’s all I care about.) When management started to say “the people who are following the policy are unhappy with the people who aren’t following the policy,” I didn’t like it at all. In fact, I’d rather have them at home while I’m in the office, so they are not making noise and exhaling SARS-CoV-2 aerosols in a shared space. Management should communicate the business reasons for the policy to all the employees instead of using the compliant employees to guilt the noncompliant employees into compliance.

                1. Curmudgeon in California*

                  The worst part of this is that Covid is not gone and is still killing about 400 people a day in the US.

                  The stupid “butts in seats” attitudes of some managements types is literally going to get people killed. Yet these know nothing numpties of butts-in-seats management will never actually accept the responsibility when their employees die because of the “gotta be seen in the office” policy. They’ll mouth platitudes about how “Oh, gosh, they should have been more careful. I’ll send some cheap flowers to the family.”

                1. Anne Elliot*

                  Maybe so, but what’s it to you? I always find it odd when people comment to tell other people to stop commenting. If you don’t want to read my comments, or anyone else’s, feel free to skip them.

      3. tangerineRose*

        The boss wants it to look occupied, so the boss should be doing the work to make it look like it’s occupied.

    6. Mazikeen of the Lilim*

      LW5, set up a rotation of just enough people and decoy stuff to look occupied for a limited time, until the busy bodies stop checking up on you. Then slowly fade away and go back to working from home. :D

      1. coffee*

        Yeah, start out with everyone there, comment a lot about how you’re going to the conference rooms etc. as you leave your desks, and then fade back to home.

        1. JustaTech*

          This is one of the things about the *appearance* of being in the office that can interfere with actually working.
          My VP simultaneously wants us to be in the office (ie, on-site) and to be in the lab (on-site in a specific location). The problem is that when we are all in the labs, there is no one in the office area, so it *looks* like no one is on-site. The office area is all open (ugh) so a quick glance will show you if there are people there, but to see if people are in the labs you have to walk down several hallways and actually open doors (and if you want to go in the room you have to put on a lab coat).

          So we’ve been chastised for “no one being around” when actually we were doing the *other* thing the VP wanted and were in the labs.

          (Now I’m tempted to just say “actually everyone who’s left is here, it’s just that 10 people don’t fill up a space intended for 30”. But that would be exceedingly rude.)

    7. nnn*

      #5: In addition to sweaters and coats on chairs as others have suggested, the people who are in the office can make sure to position themselves where passers-by can see them, at the front or the outside (depending on how you’re configured) of your area.

      People’s natural tendency is to space themselves out evenly with empty desks in between, so you could give the impression of being fuller by having everyone grouped together in the most visible desks, which would suggest to passers-by that the whole office is full. (Like how if you got on a bus and the first few rows were completely full with two strangers sitting next to each other in every seat, you would assume the bus is full, not that the whole rest of the bus is empty.) That would interfere with the quiet and privacy that people likely need to work, so you’d have to balance it out.

      Nefarious idea: Your team could make enough noise to disturb other teams, regularly enough that they’re relieved if you’re not in.

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        Ohh, I like how you think! I’ve been binge-watching The Real Hustle (currently on Season 8) and this feels like something they would do.

      2. nnn*

        Another silly idea without regard for logistical feasibility: everyone comes into the office with a take-out tray of four coffee cups, giving the impression that there’s a bunch more people in the office.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Ohh, I like that. And if they are solid cups, the others could be empty even (to be reused over and over again by whatever person has to go into the office that day – just arrange a stash place that that person grabs the set-up from).

      3. Lenora Rose*

        (Like how if you got on a bus and the first few rows were completely full with two strangers sitting next to each other in every seat, you would assume the bus is full, not that the whole rest of the bus is empty.)

        I just had to comment on this in particular; I don’t assume that, because there’s a weird phenomenon where as soon as one person is standing (often in the open space by the back door where there is room to pass them, and often because they’re someone who doesn’t want to sit by a stranger), people assume the bus is standing room only, while there’s often many seats left. *Especially* if you go past that person to the back. And anyone else standing will stop before that person even if there’s room to pass. Even in actual standing room only, this happens – I’ve been on buses where I could barely cling on in the front but as soon as the driver (finally) insisted on everybody moving back, I ended up almost all the way by the side door.

      4. Curmudgeon in California*

        … so you could give the impression of being fuller by having everyone grouped together in the most visible desks, which would suggest to passers-by that the whole office is full.

        So you could give the illusion of being in office by having those who obey and come in violate social distancing protocols while Covid is still killing people?

        Do people really have their heads that far in the sand?

    8. teapot QA*

      Leave an old smartphone or set of keys you don’t need on your desk so people think “OP must have just stepped away to get a cup of coffee/use the bathroom/etc. No one would leave work without their keys and phone.” Would work well with the outerwear suggestions.
      Another option, if/when anyone is in office, show up with minimal stuff (ideally no bag/backpack/briefcase) so you could always plausibly be coming from or going to a meeting, regardless of arrival time or what’s at your desk.

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        I like the surplus key / smartphone idea. Also, a surplus purse (empty or at least empty of valuables) would really send the message that its owner hasn’t gone far.

    9. HomerJaySimpson*

      I’d say maybe you have a rotation of people who come in (one or two per day, maybe one person every other day) and that person shifts some stuff around in the office. They put a jacket on the back of someone’s chair, make some coffee, print something off but leave it on the printer, maybe even play some music at their desk (loud enough to be heard by someone passing by).
      I think the thing that would work best are the subtle cues that someone has been there today, and that the office has a “people stepped out to a meeting, but they’ll be back” vibe.
      But yes, this is incredibly stupid. The petty part of me wants you guys to put up signs at your desks saying things like “Mind your own business Karen, I don’t work for you” or “You don’t need to know where I am, if you had to know, you would already.” But I recognize that’s not likely to turn out well.

      1. nnn*

        And approximately 40% of the time when people are heading in or out, they should be on the phone all harried “Yes, I just got out of the meeting and I’m on my way back into the office, I’ll be there in literally two minutes”

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Bonus points if you have a good idea of who the office busybodies are (or which department they’re in) so whenever someone from your department is in, they do a just-for-show harried walk-and-phone-call near the busybodies’ desks.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        This is the way to make it look like people are there without being too onerous on anyone. Make sure the role rotates fairly, doesn’t just default to whoever is closest. Some days, have two people in, other days, have none, that will look more natural than always only one person. Spare purses / backpacks for warmer weather days.

    10. Coverage Associate*

      Our management tracks office attendance by our key cards. If there’s a specific issue or COVID-19 exposure, they look at specifically who was in when. Otherwise, they look at aggregate numbers. It would be against the rules but easy enough to do to pass our key cards around and set up a rotation where someone is assigned to key in absent people on certain days.

      1. AnoninGermany*

        Some places also use the swipe in/out data to know who was in the building if there’s an emergency and who might therefore be missing or need rescue. I wouldn’t do this with the key cards unless you know for certain your office isn’t one of those places.

        1. Eva*

          They use this data for way more than emergencies. It’s probably how LW#5’s team was discovered to be WFH in the first place. This is something that leaving coats on chairs won’t solve.

          1. Hotdog not dog*

            yeah, our team ran into a situation where one of us was in the office but hadn’t swiped their pass because a colleague held the door. Because our company is ridiculous, the manager was asked to speak with us about the importance of not only working from the office but being sure to swipe our cards. I can’t imagine the time and resources wasted on reconciling door swipes with IP logins, but apparently those are matched daily to ensure that we are where they told us to be. Now we have a logjam at the front door as we each wait our turn to swipe the card, open the door, wait for it to close again so the next person can go.

              1. Triplestep*

                I work in Facilities Management. I would be really surprised if the card reader would not register a swipe unless the door was closed. In my buildings we capture ANY swipe a person makes while in the office. One swipe per person per day is all they need. Unless this company is trying to track when people arrive and when they leave (in which case they’d have to swipe to leave) this should not be necessary to determine how many people used the building services on any particular day. I think someone misinterpreted what was needed when they instituted this rule.

              2. OhNo*

                Might be a case of work-to-rule, which is often better than complaining to get higher-ups to see that their systems are flawed.

            1. Michelle Smith*

              This is infuriatingly silly and I’m sorry you have to deal with such a poorly thought out micromanagement system.

            2. EPLawyer*

              Knowing where folks are in case of emergency is one thing.
              Using the swipe card system and matching it to log ins is just micromanaging beyond belief. It’s so butts in the seats mentality that is is actually counter productive.

              1. Triplestep*

                Not necessarily about butts in seats. Building managers and real estate directors are being challenged to show how their buildings are being used, reduce operating expenses, etc. You can’t track how a building is being used if you don’t collect info on who is there and then analyze it at a high level. I just posted above that making people wait for a door to close before swiping is probably not necessary – I think someone was being too literal when they instituted this rule. But collecting the data is so simple and useful for things not related to browbeating people into coming back to work, there’s no reason not to do it.

            3. Curmudgeon in California*

              It’s a horrible waste of time and money for this entire “let’s enforce our butts in seats mandate!” They are wasting your time, IT time, HR time, and all of that for the petty, childish satisfaction of forcing people into an office while a deadly pandemic is still raging. IMO, those upper managers are trash.

      2. Princess Xena*

        This is a terrible idea. Bringing in coats and jackets is one thing. Keycards will leave traceable evidence of falsification, which will be definitely used against you. Also, offices can and do use that sort of log for emergencies – if there’s something like a fire, that will be what tells firefighters if theres still people inside and you run the risk of putting emergency personnel in danger.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree, there is a HUGE difference between leaving a coat on your chair and full on fraudulent keycard activity. Definitely don’t do that!!

        2. Katie*

          Seriously. This goes beyond silly tasks that may get your hand smacked but to getting fired if they saw that you either gave your key card to someone else or were scanning your card for others.

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yeah – my office does exactly the same still to this day with Covid or other illness exposures. But then I’m admin side for a hospital system, so warning about potential illness exposure and requiring vaccines* is just a part of my job.

        *yes there are exceptions for people with medical or religious reasons for not getting shots, and there are alternate procedures for them if an office exposure happens. And the fact that you need to be vaccinated fully is stated on the application, they want you to be fully aware of what you’re signing up for.

      4. Jules the 3rd*

        This would get you fired at my employer, and I suspect at most employers. It is clear and deliberate fraud. Do not do this.

    11. Educator*

      I think that whenever a member of your team is in the office, they should make an aggressive effort to talk to as many people as possible. Stroll around with files to copy saying hello to everyone you see, bring baked goods and hang out in the break room, try to get as many people as possible to come work outside with you, start a fantasy sports league and sign everyone up, and make the afternoon coffee run. Just be as obnoxiously present as possible. People will feel like they just saw you for a month after that! If you can set up a rotation, you are all set.

      Also, this whole thing is ridiculous.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        In other words, each day have one or to members of the team spend their day in “spontaneous collaboration” with as many people as possible, freeing up the rest of the team to get the work done.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          Or have everyone who has to be in the office that day spend all day in “spontaneous collaboration,” so that the only people who end up getting any work done are the ones who stay home. If management values seeing butts in seats more than productivity, let them get what they seem to want.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Or someone who is WFH can set up an in-office tournament (ping-pong, board games, etc) and send out daily updates. Nothing would make me avoid a department more than an invitation to come watch their Monopoly semi-finals.

    12. SwiftSunrise*

      I second leaving strategically placed outerwear, but maybe also leave desks kind of … deliberately untidy? Stage set a pad, a couple of pens, notes, memos in such a way that it looks like someone just stepped away for a few moments, instead of everything put away and filed as they would be at the end of the day.

      1. nnn*

        Also, leave the kind of clutter people leave on their desks when they work in the office full-time. Framed pictures of your family, a hairbrush, a spare charger, a random troll doll…

        1. Lilith*

          Maybe some timers could be set for a couple lamps to come on at strategic times or even a radio set at an NPR station.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Teacher desks are quite frequently abandoned for the majority y of the teaching day, but always look “ready” for a quick printing job or marking. Post its and memo pads are out, the teacher’s planner is to one side, a good pen (non school issue) is on the planner. There’s often a stack of paperwork in mid marking mode. Most importantly the computer screen is on, but locked. Oh, and there’s usually one or two lunch bags in the mix if it’s a shared office. Smart phones and travel mugs tend to be elsewhere with their owners.

      3. Lab Boss*

        I like this one. I make an effort to clean up at the end of each WEEK, but usually will work up to the end of the day and just walk out with my notepads and reference materials spread out, so I can sit right back down the next day and pick up where I left off. Unless someone was actively noting exactly what was where, you’d never know if I was WFH on a given day or just had stepped away from my desk.

      4. Been There*

        I came here to say this – my desk looks used 98% of the time because I am just a sloppy person and there’s papers everywhere always. The only time it’s clean is when I’m on vacation.

    13. Sammmmmmmmmmm*

      LW 5 –

      Can you use cardboard and make your cubes into private little house? You can add Christmas lights and make it festive.

      Otherwise, I’d always have a dirty coffee cup & water cup on my desk, and a blanket on my chair slightly ruffled so it looks like I had to run to the bathroom and just dropped it there. A coat or empty purse sitting there. As a team pick different days to go in and move things around, throw something in the trash.

        1. my experience*

          A jacket on the back of a chair and desk light on a timer. Or the one person in the office turns on all the desk lights in the morning. Maybe turn on the monitor screens too?

          Ambient noise also leads to feelings of something being occupied – what about quiet music?

      1. LW #5*

        “Can you use cardboard and make your cubes into private little house?”

        I would *love* this for times I’m actually in the office, in addition to aiding the deception! Our desks are theoretically divided, but the walls are only three feet high so the amount of noise pollution and cross-talk/echo on conference calls is terrible! (Another reason WFH is more productive.)

        However, I have zero doubt that this is forbidden and we’d be instructed to take it all down.

    14. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      I have a “werewolf nose” and there’s a different smell to a place that’s been mostly unoccupied for a while. If things like personal humidifiers or potpourri/wax warmers are allowed, something set up to add heat and moisture to the air would help generate the impression of more bodies having recently been in that space.

      If certain people use particular colognes or other scents, leaving one spray of that on that person’s desk chair every now and then could also help the impression that that person has been in lately.

      Note that all means of adding fragrances are absolutely unfriendly to anyone with scent sensitivities/allergies.

      Assuming desktop computers instead of laptops, mouse jigglers could make the area look more occupied based on the screens not having gone into sleep mode, but I don’t think many of them have remotely operable timers (and it could look weird if someone came in too early and all the screens were awake)

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        Please don’t with the scented stuff. I have a new co-worker who is heavy with either aftershave or cologne, and I can tell when he’s been around even if I don’t see him. And while his desk is just outside my cubicle, I am fortunate that his job, field tech, keeps him out of the office a lot. And even if he is in, he helps out in production and/or sample making.

        1. Marna Nightingale*

          As someone with serious allergies I appreciate this HUGELY.
          But also as someone with serious allergies, very few if any people are allergic to:
          Ground coffee, which you can leave a bit of in the decoy cups: it won’t go off the way brewed coffee would, but it will add a certain realism to the air.
          Teabags or loose tea: same.
          The actual spices used for pumpkin spice: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove. Just a pinch or two somewhere.
          Same for herbs, and dried citrus peel.
          You can create a subtle but definite lived-in feel with that kind of thing.
          If there’s an electric kettle somewhere in the department, whoever goes in should fill it and boil it once, too.

          Some nice — but also slightly slap-dash and not too coordinated looking — seasonal decor might help sell it as well! A few gourds, maybe a couple of adorable tiny skeletons that can be moved around as if people were planting them on each other…

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Empty places do smell differently but I don’t think it’s people’s deliberate scents which do that. I think perfume or aftershave scents are not even the most common smells you come across in an office. The smell of coffee, someone’s apple slices, the last vestige of a donut, or pencil shavings are really subtle things but it’s noticeably missable when there’s no smell at all.

    15. Caitlin*

      Leave some notebooks around with a pen and some half scribbled notes? Nobody will look too closely (especially with a prominent work related heading like “Team Meeting”) and it’ll look like you just popped out to do something, and are coming back to your desk at any time.

    16. raincoaster*

      They should totally hire on-demand people for minimum wage to just show up and engage with platitudes. Anything deeper and,”I’ll have to bump it upstairs!”

    17. it's-a-me*

      Have several competing radios set to different stations playing around the office (quietly of course!).

      Several times a day, call your own desk phones and hang up after 4-5 rings (so that it sounds as if someone answered).

      Have a catering company occasionally deliver food to your office area so that other staff will descend like seagulls and thus occupy the space.

      Download screensavers/play full screen videos that have the appearance of people working, spreadsheets, research, etc. so that every time someone walks past the computers are doing something different, and they assume you’ve been working quite recently.

      Put a tiny humidifyer in a large coffee mug, so that it always looks like you have a fresh cup of coffee on your desk.

      1. LW #5*

        “Put a tiny humidifyer in a large coffee mug, so that it always looks like you have a fresh cup of coffee on your desk.”

        This and raincoaster’s idea of hiring extras/stunt doubles win for creativity!

    18. ceiswyn*

      Can I use your office as my overflow desk space?

      You can have scribbled-in notebooks, piles of printouts, multiple brightly coloured coffee mugs, umbrellas, cardigans, emergency snacks and a yoga mat sprinkled artistically around your office for free!

    19. kanej*

      put a couple notes in different handwriting over the computer monitors that say something like “back in five!”

      also sticky notes on a couple desks with vaguely on topic notes on them

    20. Miette*

      Got an intern? Part of their job could be rearranging things and giving excuses. Bonuses given for creative deskscapes that tell compelling stories.

      “Miette’s in the TPS report redesign meeting, she’ll be in there all afternoon, so sorry. You should DM her if you want a quicker response.”

      1. Cataclysm*

        Not gonna lie, I don’t like this idea because it puts an awful lot of the actual deceptive (and most likely to be punished) action on the intern and I doubt they would feel they have the power to refuse. It would also mean the intern has to be in office everyday and unless that’s already a requirement for them, I’m really uncomfortable with the most junior person assuming a disproportionate amount of health risk and the going to office burden.

    21. BAgpuss*

      I think the simplest are things like cpsand a little other ‘clutter’ on desks so they don’t look unused.
      Maybe a few plants as they make a place look more lived in (and if you pick carefully should be OK if only watered when you need to be in)
      And on days when you are in, make sure you are visible – stick your head round the door of the departmenrt which is complaining.

    22. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Every time one of you goes in, move each other’s chairs, mouses & keyboards slightly, and check for outdated papers on the surface & inboxes. Update the local takeout menus you have out, and move them around. Add & remove PostIt notes.
      Do a quick dust of the immediate working surfaces only so it looks like someone was there recently. Especially monitor, mouse, keyboard & inbox. Let the rest of it build up dust. It’s subtle but it will register subconsciously.
      And most importantly flip calendar pages or don’t have paper ones!

    23. Gnome*

      I have been in the office a few days a week for months. The hallmark if teams coming back into the office is that they are quite loud for at least the first week. So, assuming that other can hear your group I recommend everyone (most people) come in and be aggressively social with each other for about a week. In addition to going around and seeing all the other folks, etc. You are all excited by Tim’s COVID beard and look at the video of Mary’s COVID puppy and, did you manage an in-person graduation party for Junior? And of course, complain loudly that it sucks having to be back in the office Everyone will be so sick of hearing you be in the office it will stick in their brains that you are there. After that, maybe rotate days where one or two people come in and move stuff etc. If you can get folks who frequently work together in at the same time (so they are having conversations) bonus.

    24. Teapot Wrangler*

      I’d try to have someone in each week. Each person bring in a jacket / cardigan to leave on the back of the chair. The person in that week can move those between chairs, shuffle notepads and pens on desks, move (clean, empty) glasses and mugs about. Maybe add a tote bag or leave a pair of old trainers on the floor so it looks like someone changed into heels for a meeting.

    25. Just Tired*

      Watch the scenes in 9 to 5 where they kept the manager out of the office, but made it look like he was there. Classic stuff!

      Good luck with what is an idiotic request!

      1. Roy G. Biv*

        Exactly – this is where my mind went. Roz, the busybody, looking for Mr. Hart. And yes, someone needs to shut the busybodies down.

    26. Laura*

      Folders…many folders stacked on your desk top…pens….notepads, etc. Jacket on the back of the chair…make sure the chair is not pushed in all the way.

    27. Fourth and Inches*

      Coffee cups from take out places! I had someone at my job think I was here on a scheduled day off because every time he walked by he saw my Dunkin cup on my desk. I had just forgotten to throw it out the day before. Maybe rinse out a couple of cups and keep them on hand to place on people’s desks?

    28. Akcipitrokulo*

      Make busybidies cry wolf.

      Be in all week- all of you – and take full advantage of the setup so you are never/almost never at your desk.

      Then when they complain, and you can show that you WERE there… might get people off you back?

      1. LW #5*

        Love it! I might seriously float this with my complicit managers.

        “Oh, I was here – you must have come by my desk while I was visiting the bees.”

        (Yes we have campus beehives.)

        And then if busybodies complain, our managers can use the swipe-in data to prove we were here.

      2. GlitterIsEverything*

        Absolutely my favorite! If the buybodies can’t tell the difference between when you’re in the office and when you’re out, you’ve just won a point for WFH.

    29. L-squared*

      #5. I don’t have an answer to the question, but the attitude about it just rubs me the wrong way. As one of those people being forced to be back in the office, while I see other teams just choosing to ignore that mandate, it really rubs me the wrong way. And look, I’m sure part of it is that my manager chose not to push back, whereas your manager just doesn’t care. But it really is unfair to everyone. And having a letter on here dedicated to how to both be unfair and deceive people just seems pretty bad.

      It would be like saying “well I know we are all supposed to be online from 11-3 everyday, but if you don’t want to, lets everyone list a whole bunch of tricks to make it appear that you are online

      1. BatManDan*

        You’re really saying “everyone should have to come back just because I did?” Assuming ethics, business HAS to live by the mantra “If it works, it’s good. If it doesn’t, it’s bad.” If I were the director of team WFH, I’d be explaining to the other directors that they need to keep their noses out of my department’s business, and move past “optics” as a way of judging ANYTHING.

        1. L-squared*

          I mean, if the company is going to make it a mandate for employees, but some teams are just allowed to choose not to follow it, then yeah. It’s not just because I do, its because its supposed to be a mandate. When you work somewhere where 1 team just gets to do whatever the hell they want all the time, trust me, that isn’t fun.

          I don’t like the optics arguments in general.

          But my problem with the letter is its basically all about how to flaunt the rules. There are plenty of rules at my company I don’t like, but I doubt alison would do a whole comment section of how to ignore them but look like I’m following them.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*


          I think people snitching on other departments not being in the office as often is a toxic behavior. I think not letting managers determine how much their people need to put their butts in seats by means of passive aggressive “complaints from others” is toxic and micromanaging BS.

          If I were you I’d be looking for a new job if they keep pushing this wasteful in-office BS.

          1. alienor*

            I have never gotten why supposed adults go around snitching on each other in the office. I literally could not care less what anyone else is doing or where they are, as long as I can reach them when I need something. I’ve got plenty on my plate without spending time tracking my coworkers!

      2. Nancy*

        I doubt their plan of cluttering their desk will last that long before they are found out.

        Don’t use the suggestions of food or your key card, LW5. The food will attract bugs and if there is an emergency someone will have to look for you because you are identified as being there. Don’t negatively affect other people over this.

      3. Robin*

        Yeah, this letter feels gross. And the gleeful listing of different stuff to pretend like the department is there feels genuinely weird.

        1. Eater of Hotdish*

          I feel like, at a certain point, commenters (I include myself in this) are tossing around ideas for a sitcom episode. I’m highly dubious that something like this would work in real life, but it’s fun thinking of off-the-wall ways to make an office look more inhabited than it is, not to mention an opportunity for people whose workplaces are very “rear ends in seats”-oriented to let off steam a little bit.

          I very much doubt much, if any, of these ideas are going to be put into practice, but it would be a great episode of an office comedy.

      4. LizB*

        Meh, I have to be in the office for actual reasons, and if my colleagues who don’t have those reasons were also ordered back and chose not to comply… I certainly wouldn’t blame them. The workplace isn’t about being “fair.” Making other people miserable doesn’t make me less miserable.

        1. L-squared*

          Sure, but you have to be for reasons. I’m betting there are other departments who don’t “need” to be in the office, but their manager is making them because the higher ups decreed it. So seeing people try to pull one over just comes across really bad to me.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Why? It neither picks your pocket nor breaks your leg if other people don’t slavishly obey the in-office command. MYOB.

        2. Quite Anonymous*

          I also have to be in the office for actual reasons, and I’d be livid, so mileage varies here. My co-workers not being on site makes my life much harder*, and if they were told to be back and chose to play cute games instead of complying? Not amused.

          *Because of my experience, I’m also not willing to immediately dismiss LW’s co-worker’s complaints as optics or being busybodies.

        3. In-office Chatterbox*

          100%. I would hope my coworkers who have executive support responsibilities on-site aren’t bitter that I’m in the office fewer days per week than they are. My additional inconvenience if I had more of those tasks, or more required in-office time, doesn’t change the fact that they’re inconvenienced by their in-office days. Thankfully the hybrid transition seems to have gone pretty harmoniously in my division, but if it weren’t, I would honestly LOVE to support someone in a coup of differing in-office days requirements by individual managers.

      5. The Person from the Resume*

        I said this above, but I’ll repeat here. The bosses suggesting the department work out a way to “keep up appearances” are bad managers!

        Also even though this is bad senior leadership decision; your own managers are also bad for telling/allowing your team to fake compliance. They should die on the hill that it’s an unreasonable request or back it to you even if it’s with a “we just gotta do it” attitude. Just do enough to “keep up appearances ” is not good management.

        1. Me ... Just Me*

          Dying on the hill doesn’t actually do anything. Unless you are proposing that the managers quit in protest? When upper management makes foolish decisions that don’t support productivity and employee retention, then there really are no “good managers” in such a situation because the managers are being severely hindered in their jobs by those in power above them.

      6. Colette*

        “I have to go into the office therefore everyone has to go to the office because fairness” isn’t compelling. I’m one of the people ignoring the “back to the office” mandate, because I see no reason to spend more time and money and risk my health to go into the office to do my job worse.

        If there’s an actual reason why they should go into the office, their management should talk to them about it.

        1. L-squared*

          How many rules are you ok with that being for.

          Lets say the company had summer fridays. Then after Labor Day, when it was supposed to go back to normal, the sales department just decided “nope, we aren’t working Fridays”. If you had to continue working Fridays, you are telling me you’d be totally ok with that? And with this site having a whole section dedicated to how to look like you are working fridays while you are actually not.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            That’s both a false equivalency and a slippery slope argument, let’s not do that. In your example people are not working – WFH staff are still working, and in fact would be doing less work if they came in and made a big show of being present.

            If the work is getting done I’m pretty okay with a lot of rules being ignored as long as there isn’t disparate impact to either a protected class or the lowest salaried workers.

            1. L-squared*

              I don’t think its a false equivalency at all. They are getting their work done. They just are getting it done on different days. But to make it easier, lets say that team is working 4 ten hour shifts. So the amount of time worked is the same. I still think people wouldn’t like it if they just chose that on their own, yet the high ups made every other team work 5 days.

              1. GlitterIsEverything*

                My company is allowing some doctors to work a 4-day week, while most are still running a 5-day week.

                The issue we’re running into isn’t that some people get an extra day off, or that some doctors aren’t seeing as many patients.

                It’s that support staff – front desk, techs, surgery scheduling, etc – are used for all doctors. Which means that support staff are being asked to work longer hours on a 5-day week to accommodate the doctors who want a 4-day week. So the only people who get a 4-day week out of the arrangement are the doctors, and the support staff get worse work / life balance.

                My husband works for a company that runs shifts anywhere from 3-12’s to 4-10’s to 5-8’s and even 2-24’s. If everyone has flexibility, and can pick their shift, it works.

            2. Esmeralda*

              I agree. It’s none of my business what other departments are doing, unless it affects my ability to get my work done.

              I will say, however, that I have a very deep resentment towards the upper echelons of our division, because they work from home (and from a vacation home, in once case), most of the time. While they have made it very hard for all the lowly peons to WFH, even though we are extremely effective when we do.

              But if the llama reporting department doesn’t need to be in office? None of my business, I’m focused on emus and more power to them if they’ve found a way to get what they need.

            3. Dinwar*

              The problem is, rules-breaking IS a slippery slope. It’s been demonstrated in the safety world–this is why Behavior Based Loss Prevention became a thing, because they realized that little violations build into major violations and into incidents and recordables.

              There are usually processes that one can go through to change the rules. Few people in an organization have the capacity to unilaterally change them, and fewer have the authority. Part of working for an organization is giving up a certain amount of autonomy in decision-making.

              The issue is that lower-level staff don’t always know the nuances. So it’s really hard to calibrate whether not showing up is defying an order stemming from a power trip, or one stemming from an actual reason. And given the hostility towards management and bosses that’s generally present in this comments section when it comes to this topic, I’m not convinced people are seeing this situation through unbiased eyes.

                1. Dinwar*

                  There is. The companies and (federal) agencies I work with are increasingly aware of the cost of disgruntled employees, and the potential for security breaches caused by them. Ethics and integrity are becoming increasingly important in the business world. A lot of it mimics the Behavior Based Loss Prevention models for incident prevention, too: Focus on behaviors, remove the potential hazards as much as possible, install systems to prevent or at least identify incidents where the hazard can’t be removed.

                  A lot of this is being driven by increased attention on this subject by the European Union.

                  Further, if you believe your company is engaging in wage theft there are people you can report it to, often internally and absolutely externally. If you have such information and refuse to act on it, you’re an accomplice, morally if not legally.

            4. In This Economy*

              Aside from the argument that often lower-paid employees are the ones who are frontline workers and have a business need to be in the office, those who could WFH in their positions are still likely to be impacted by this because they might feel they don’t have the standing to push back and might be less financially able to handle if they were fired for noncompliance.

          2. penny dreadful analyzer*

            Is the sales department’s work getting done even with summer Fridays extended later into the year? If so, they should be allowed further “summer” Fridays. Same for every other department.

            Summer Fridays were developed in businesses where summer is the slow season. I once worked in a department where summer was the busy season, and we had fall Fridays instead.

            I admit I think a standard corporate work week should include half-days on Fridays (as a child I went to a school with half-days on Fridays and I have been dreaming of returning to this eminently excellent and sensible schedule for the rest of my life) but as far as any specific company or department goes, making people do a thing should reflect, well, whether or not they actually have to do the thing to get their jobs done.

          3. Colette*

            If the sales team was still doing their jobs but not in the office on Friday, that would have nothing to do with me, so I can’t imagine I’d care.

            There are some rules you should follow because it’s part of having a job. I don’t see risking my health for no reason as one of them, and I’m prepared to deal with the consequences if my employer disagrees. It’s highly unlikely they’ll fire me, but if they do, I’ll find a remote job. I have marketable skills and an emergency fund.

            Personally, I believe it’s necessary for those who are able to do so to stand up for what they believe, since not everyone has that option.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              There are some rules you should follow because it’s part of having a job. I don’t see risking my health for no reason as one of them, and I’m prepared to deal with the consequences if my employer disagrees.


              Covid is still killing people, and spreading in offices, especially open plan germ pits. I am all for people doing whatever they need to to avoid getting infected.

              Furthermore, each time you get Covid, the worse the follow on effects are. Things like 30 year olds having strokes within 90 days of recovering from Covid. Or the debilitating effects of long Covid, the risk for which increases with each time you get it, vaccinated or not.

              Unless there is literally a business critical need for people to come in to an office, all efforts to allow people to work from home are justified in my view as a harm reduction measure.

            2. Mill Miker*

              I worked somewhere where the sales and support teams actually would finish all their work before Friday afternoon, and honestly, I wish they could have just left. Instead they had a low-key but too-loud-for-the-shared-office party every Friday.

            3. Big Bank*

              In this scenario no one is “standing up” though. They are putting on a farce, while other people who feel they have less capital to ignore the rule are still going in.

              If this were a case of someone openly informing management “for my health, I cannot justify following this rule. I will accept the consequences if there are any” then that is standing up. If other people see/learn this person was able to set their foot down without consequences (or with acceptable level of consequence) then THAT makes a difference.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          … because I see no reason to spend more time and money and risk my health to go into the office to do my job worse.


          Going in to the office solely for the sake of going in to the office is wasteful and, IMO, treats people’s lives as cheap and inconsequential. Then again, I feel that all of those “essential” people who had to go in person throughout the pandemic should have gotten hazard pay, and still should be getting hazard pay.

          I absolutely hate this trend of top executives demanding that the low level employees be in a cheap open-plan office just so they can see people working. It’s an abuse of power, is disrespectful of the employees, is actually dangerous to employee health and safety, and is a selfish, childish power flex.

          It gives me the image of a CEO throwing a tantrum while demanding that “The peons have to come in! They work for me! I wanna see them work! I make the ruuuuules! Do what I say! Obey me! Bow down to meeeee!”

          My reaction to childish tantrums is “No!”

          1. Colette*

            And the thing is, it’s safer for the people who have to be in the office is those who can work from home do so.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              This too.

              It’s like a lab having only the people who need to be there in it, and a lab with half of the company playing looky-lou while they’re working.

              The more people work from home the easier it is for people whose job makes it necessary to be in the office to practice social distancing and infection avoidance.

      7. Posh Pie Spice*

        If I were already feeling a little annoyed I had to follow a rule and others didn’t, it would heighten my resentment 1000x if I were to see those people seemingly blatantly rubbing it in my face with cutesy decorations!

        A cardigan over a chair or a coffee cup, fine, but please no crazy tricks.

        1. Quite Anonymous*

          Same. If the other teams are angry now, how are they going to feel once they realize they’re being made fools of?

          If this is the hill LW’s team is choosing, whatever, but either take a stand or continue to Bartleby it. Active deception is going to make it worse.

      8. Just here for the cats*

        the thing is that the bosses don’t care. So to me that means some of the higher-ups don’t care if people are coming in on the days they are supposed to be or not. It sounds like it’s the other workers who are the busy bodies.

        1. L-squared*

          I guess even calling them busy bodies is minimizing, what I see, as a valid complaint. I have to come in for no real reason, but this whole department can just decide not to? That, to me, doesn’t equal busy body.

          1. Quite Anonymous*

            To add on, I also don’t think we have enough information from this letter to say what the other teams’ gripes are based on. Most people seem to swear that they can work just as effectively from home, but their on-site counterparts may have a different story about the impact.

            1. Colette*

              If the other team is having to cover some duties because the OP’s team isn’t coming in, they should raise that to their management, because that is an actual reason why the OP’s team should be coming in. But it’s entirely possible that the work that has to happen in the office would not be done by the OP’s team, even if they were there.

          2. Parakeet*

            Why is the problem, there, the team that’s taking collective action against silly policy, rather than the people doubling down on the directive? Maybe the other teams should be getting tips from the team that’s taking collective action, instead of trying to undermine their action.

          3. Curmudgeon in California*

            Let me see if I’m reading you right. You’re saying, essentially “I’m complying with a senseless rule that makes me miserable, so other people have to be miserable too to make me feel better because then we’re all following the sacred rules.” Is that about right?

      9. Esmeralda*

        In the before times, we had a great great grandboss who liked to walk through his domain at random times. Woe unto the department where “too many” people were out when he took a stroll.

        My boss made sure the office was never empty. And insisted that if you were out for a legitimate reason, that it was on your online calendar AND that you left a note on your office door. And put some pain behind non-compliance, too.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          That would be a reason to start looking for a new job. Micromanagement and butts in seats all rolled into one toxic environment.

          1. L-squared*

            I’m saying rules should be equally enforced. If you’d like to try and editorialize that to suit your needs, have fun. But I feel like because its WFH, people are all about only following rules they like, but when there are other rules, people have a problem with the idea of “Rules for thee and not for me”

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              So people should just blindly follow rules that risk their health?

              I’d be willing to bet that upper management still works from home, otherwise they’d know first hand if everyone was there or not. That’s true “Rules for thee and not for me”.

              1. L-squared*

                If OP wrote in and said “we don’t want to come in because we are worried about Covid” I think I’d have a different opinion. The way its written is “we don’t want to come in because we can do our jobs from home”. So yeah, if its just because they don’t want to, I do see it as a problem for rules to not be equally enforced.

                Again, its not, to me, about blindly following rules, its about selectively enforcing them. So yeah, if I would be punished for not doing something, and a whole team is getting away with not doing it, I’m bringing it up

                1. Curmudgeon in California*

                  I guess that I roll risking Covid in with the risks and costs of commuting, especially if the person takes public transit.

      10. SnowyRose*

        I’m with you and honestly, as someone whose organization is dealing with something very similar at the moment, I’m really disappointed that this letter with the request for suggestions on to make it look like your in the office was included. In my organization, not only is it considered unethical and a gross lapse in professional judgment, which are fireable offenses on their own, it violates documented security policies and the agreement we have in place in order to work a hybrid schedule.

      11. Toots La'Rue*

        Yeah, I would guess that most of the “busybodies” also don’t NEED to be in the office, but their managers are taking a hard line on butts in seats. Very well could be more of a pointing out that this team not coming in is working so why can’t they do it too vs. an I want them to be forced back in too kind of thing.

        1. L-squared*

          Right. I don’t really care about what others are doing, but if I am being forced to because its the RULE, then yeah, I’m going to point out that this rule isn’t being enforced equally across teams.

          1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            I don’t know. I cannot see a reason for forcing a bad policy on everyone else. It sounds a little too much like “misery likes company” to me!

      12. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I respectfully disagree. It is clear that the job can be done quite effectively from home and that the group has enough security in their ability to secure new employment that they are willing to risk termination to push back (even if they are being a bit duplicitous in their methods, but I think most of these suggestions are intended as jokes). OP’s team has the leverage due to the fact that they are not easily replaceable (especially since they had to hire people from out of stated just to get enough people to staff these jobs). They should use that leverage if it means that much to them, and you should use any leverage you have when you have it. And honestly, if the employer gives in in order to keep OP’s team in their jobs, they might rethink that policy for everyone.

    30. TeenieBopper*

      I’m super petty so I’d probably just get cardboard cut outs as a way of saying eff off and mind your own business.

    31. The Person from the Resume*

      The key metric is that our desk area look generally occupied when office busybodies walk by.

      Malicious compliance. Figure out what makes it look generally occupied and set up a rotation where enough people come in every day so it looks occupied. You’re all on a hybrid schedule now! Also your bosses should be in the office everyday helping to make it look occupied since they are unable to push back on this ridiculiousness. They may or may not agree, but they are the boss and a good leader/manager takes the responsibility at a time like this. The other ideas are funny and silly, but not viable.

      Also even though this is bad senior leadership decision; your own managers are also bad for telling your team to fake compliance. They should die on the hill that it’s an unreasonable request or back it to you even if it’s with a “we gotta do it” attitude. “Let’s fake it” is not good management.

      (1) Organize! Push back as a department. Refuse to come in. Continue to to refuse to come in and don’t do things to fake occupancy. See what your bosses and senior management do. Do they fire anyone or ignore it? If they are all talk, then you’re safe.

      (2) Everyone/nearly everyone in the department start job hunting and when they quit for a new jobs be extremely clear it’s the unnecessary butts in seat attitude

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Additional malicious compliance: when you are in the office, refuse to go to any meetings, especially with your boss. “But [Boss], if I go to the meeting, my cubicle will look unoccupied and I would never neglect a key performance metric like that.”

        1. Petty Betty*

          “Can you make sure to let the complainers/reporters know that I’m actually in-office but away from my desk, since their complaints are taken at a higher value than my work contributions?”

    32. looksgoodtome*

      Apparently you can buy a very realistic fake phone on Amazon for $20. You might even have an old one lying around you’re not using. And nobody leaves their phone on their desk unless they’re nearby, right? Screenshots of standard working documents can be set to rotation on monitors. Propsamerica also offer fake laptops for $20-$30, used mostly for home staging but look pretty good…or might be able to find a broken one for free. Just has to look the part.

    33. Lily Rowan*

      It’s too bad it’s cubes and not offices — hardly anyone is coming into my office, but a colleague had an outside meeting here recently and didn’t want it to see so deserted. She went around and turned on everyone’s office light, leaving doors variously cracked open, all the way open, etc., so maybe the person was in there, maybe they had just stepped out, etc.

    34. a raging ball of distinction*

      Leave a stash of “work shoes” under a few desks. Rotating in-office folks can move them around so it looks like their owners are changing into/out of them when they arrive and depart the office.

    35. Pyanfar*

      Make your desk look like you just left to go to a meeting…partially consumed bottle of water, items open on the desk, not neat and tidy, maybe a spare pair of reading glasses that look like they were just laid down. If there is a way to leave your computer on your desk and use a home computer to log in to work, even better! (I had an employee that I inherited pre-covid get away with almost a month of working remote and saying she was in the office until we figured it out…but only because she wasn’t actually doing any work…if she had been working, we might have never found out!)

        1. Jack Russell Terrier*

          I too loved the Bartleby reference. Funnily enough, it’s in a book I’m listening to right now. The book is excellent: How to do Nothing by Jenny Odell

    36. cmdrspacebabe*

      The vast majority of my division has no operational need to be in the office (but are also being pushed to get back in), so our planned routine is for each team to have a team meeting in the office 1 day a week, and leave the rest of the time. Some population of us will almost always be visibly in the office for their team’s 1 in-person day, even though none of us ever actually plan to go back to the office full time.

    37. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      A moderate level of clutter, plus some basic spycraft, might work. (This is ridiculous that you have to play these kinds of games, but maybe it’ll be fun!)

      Whoever from your group is in the office first does a discrete pass by your desks and rearranges the stuff. Or if you’re trying to fool early-birds, then whoever is last out the door does this.

      Drop off a folder or a printout (and then the next day, whoever has office duty stashes the stuff away somewhere). Move a bunch of innocuous sticky notes from the monitor to a desk drawer, and then the next day put them back. For the extra daring, splash a teaspoon of coffee into a handful of mugs and leave them on the desks.

      A sweatshirt or jacket on the chairs can do wonders too. If you have a desk drawer big enough to hide them, just have them appear and disappear on a random basis.

    38. Banana*

      Consider that the “busybodies” who are asking about your absence may actually be other employees who are resisting being in the office and are using your team’s absence as ammunition in their own fight. No matter how you paint it, it’s not your problem, it’s your employer’s problem. Pretending to be in the office when you aren’t does not benefit you or your coworkers in the long run.

      1. Sorcyress*

        I think this is an excellent point, and an excellent reason *not* to pretend –help your coworkers find their own ability to work from home!

    39. ProducerNYC*

      I worked in TV production for many years. One producer bought a knock off copy of her purse on Canal Street and kept that in the office. Her PA would arrive early, put the purse on the desk, turn on the computer, and leave a coffee on the desk so it looked like the producer was already there. She’d come in a hour or so later, put decoy purse back in the desk, and her bosses were none the wiser for years.

    40. QAPeon*

      Change the sleep times on your monitors and have whoever is in the office wake them periodically OR get digital picture frames that allow scheduling and set them to “on” during office hours. Having a bunch of black screens screams unoccupied.

      A little minimal personalization of the cube helps too – non standard mouse pad, coffee mug. Dust occasionally too.

    41. AnonInCanada*

      How about cardboard cut-outs, like ballparks did to “fill the bleachers” during the pandemic? :-D. You can pipe in artificial “crowd noise” (i.e. phones ringing, printers whirring, office banter, Muzak) through the speaker system to give it that real “we’re all in the office” look. That should keep the busybodies at bay.

      Or you can just tell them to mind their own business while your department team does yours (from home!) How absurd can one get?

    42. A More Brilliant Orange*

      The real solution is for everyone in the group to go find another job.

      Just one hour of commute time a day equates to 6.25 forty-hour weeks a year. You are literally being asked to work an extra month and a half a year for “looks”. Not to mention the extra costs (and risks) associated with commuting. Forcing people into the office for no other reason than “looks” is tantamount to employee abuse at this point in history.

      It’s Amazon vs brick-and-mortar businesses all over again.

      Those brick-and-mortar businesses that refused to get into online sales or considered it a fad eventually found they had a harder time attracting customers. Many went under.

      Work from home is not a fad. After 2 plus years it is not going away. If your company thinks everything will go back to pre-pandemic “normal”, then they are in for a big surprise. Employees who can leave for a WFH position will leave. The company will find it more difficult to hire employees. They will have to pay more to attract new employees or settle for not hiring top-tier talent.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Forcing people into the office for no other reason than “looks” is tantamount to employee abuse at this point in history.


        Covid is not gone, it is not “just a flu”. Even though testing and reporting have dropped off, and lots of government agencies are pretending it’s gone, Covid is
        A) Still killing people,
        B) Still causing long-covid
        C) Still contagious (Omicron is more contagious than Delta which was more contagious than the original.)
        D) Still killing people from long term aftereffects like stroke and heart attack.

        I’m still masking (N95) in public indoor spaces, ordering groceries delivered and masking when accepting deliveries, and not going out to sit-down restaurants, bars, theaters, or even haircut places. The people who are I consider to be ignorant or foolish.

        1. JCC*

          You’re welcome to do this, but please understand that most people aren’t nearly as cautious. Considering 85% of the population “ignorant or foolish” isn’t going to help you.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Actually, it has helped me keep myself and my household safe to have exactly that consideration.

            85% of the population being ignoramuses should not be an inspiration to be an ignoramus too.

            The fact that “most people aren’t nearly as cautious.” is why the pandemic has not ever really slowed down, even with vaccines available. IMO, most of my fellow citizens really are fools.

    43. Qwerty*

      OP5 – If other teams are complaining, then figure out how the entire team being remote is impacting them and address that section of it. When I see people really annoyed at coworkers that never come into the office, usually there is a work issue hidden at the bottom of it that got compounded by remote work and festered.

      * Fergus is very slow to respond. People stop by his desk to bug him because they can’t get answers but not only is he never around, neither is his team! Discord brews

      * Your team makes up the majority of people calling into meetings rather than attending them in person. This can suck for in person people depending on the meeting format by eliminating the ability to use whiteboards, paper documents, etc. Or forces everyone to call into the zoom meeting individually from the meeting room to accomodate the remote folk. Even if the meeting attendees are fine with this, they might be telling their bosses “our meetings are remote anyway because the Teapot Designers are never in the office” which puts a lot of attention on your team

      * Somebody wants a desk in your area that is unused but can’t have it because its techinically reserved. I’ve definitely seen managers of growing teams start trying to annex nearby spaces.

      I guess my point is that it doesn’t take someone coming over to check on your team space every day to notice the entire team never comes into the office. If you fix the other signals, they’ll probably care less that you aren’t around. It sounds like the higher ups weren’t really upset about the team not coming in until the other teams started complaining, so I suspect the other teams won’t be fooled by decoration on an empty space

      1. Adrian*

        All this.

        Covid-forced remote work has caused a big loss of perspective on whether tasks can, should or must be done in-office or on-site.

        Some people don’t care who else they impose on or what headaches they cause, as long as they themselves don’t have to drag in. They shouldn’t be surprised at any resentment that comes their way because of it.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Although several people on this comment chain admit they get annoyed because if they have to follow the rule, then those people over there should have to follow it too! That is petty and way too “misery loves company,” in my opinion. So I particularly like the Qwerty comment because it addresses potential real issues that OP’s team genuinely do not see but that office mates to see. And, it also gives them the opportunity to gauge whether a lot of it is just an “if I have to do it, so should you!” response.

      2. LW #5*

        This is a very thoughtful reply to what was a 90% facetious question. I’m going to ask my grandboss if there are substantive reasons why our physical absence has been impacting other teams. (I doubt it, but it’s a good question.)

      3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        This is a really excellent and actually serious response. I am loving the funny ones too, but most of those are not realistic solutions.

    44. Mockingjay*

      We didn’t decorate for holidays, but we did stage cubicles to look occupied.

      Government agency on a software program. Program had a cube farm and a lab downstairs. Due to the arcane rules of government/Evil Facilities Manager, we weren’t allowed to have people ‘officially’ sit in the lab. (Why, we never knew; in our previous building everyone had a desk in the lab.) Naturally, the SW testers would bring their laptops and personal stuff into the lab anyway, leaving their cubicles rather sparse.

      Evil Facilities Manager was always looking for unoccupied spaces and would quiz anyone nearby about seemingly empty spots (caused by her own rule *shrug). We explained many times that yes, these are assigned spots; staff are working in the lab testing today. Finally, we all went down to the lab and dug out a bunch of broken or unused equipment: keyboards, dead laptops, docking stations, spare or fuzzy monitors. We staged every cube. People brought in ratty sweaters and threw them on the back of chairs, left out pens and notebooks, a family photo, etc.

      We kept those spaces for years.

    45. DisneyChannelThis*

      Can you setup a rotation of a single person each day designated to be in the cube farm and able to offer excuses for everyone else? Also that person could do some of the other suggestions here about moving coffee mugs and jackets around.

    46. KP*

      What about keeping seasonal/holiday snacks in your cube to go along with the decorations? If you have to come in, you have Halloween candy to boost your mood. And if you’re not there, the busybodies can be jealous of your candy and cookies.

      I usually have a box of flavored water or breakfast bars at my desk. (I’m in the office most days) ….but I think I need to get better snacks now.

    47. Orange+You+Glad*

      #5 – Could you have more items out on your desks? Shuffle them around whenever someone is in the office? I agree the company is focusing on the wrong thing, but they are focusing on it so why not try to make the desks look more “lived in”? I like the idea of decorating for holidays.

      I only go into my office once a week and I often choose days/times to avoid large groups of other employees I find distracting to my work. Things get moved around and reorganized every time I’m there so anyone paying attention would see that I had been there at some point.

    48. Felicity Flowers*

      You could put in some scented plugins near but not at your workstation and you and your department can circulate some office wide emails complaining about the smell.

    49. Just Want A Nap*

      before I went home for the first time for covid, I cleaned up my whole desk, made it look clear that I wasn’t in…
      so maybe leave some decorations for year round things? hats, jackets, really obnoxious desk decorating like with a lucky waving cat?

    50. Meep*

      Little flip signs that say if you are available, off-site, unavailable, and in meetings. Then keep it at in-meetings because it is the truth.

    51. SometimesIComment*

      I had a guy in my office (pre-COVID) who basically left a briefcase on his cube floor, a jacket on his chair back, and his computer screen on with a screensaver. Then he tended to walk out for a “coffee break” and be gone for hours.

    52. nnn*

      More ideas without regard to feasibility (TBH, I’m having enormous fun brainstorming this!):

      – Every time someone goes on vacation, they leave their computer in the office, the way they would if they’d just stepped out, or if they worked in the office today and plan to come back to the office tomorrow. Ideally (if IT security permits), the computer is turned on so it beeps every time they get an email.

      – People in the office book (and use) a conference room with a frequency that’s inconvenient for the complainers.

      – In addition to making existing desks look occupied, you could approach from the other side and either have fewer desks or make it look like you have fewer desks. Some desks stealthily get moved to a storage room? Some kind of physical or psychological barrier to give the impression of “Our team’s area stops here and these other desks are unaffiliated?” With some styles of desks and tables, you can even give the impression of “This is not a workstation” by not having a chair there, or by having other things on the table. (Printer? Pile of books? Various surplus peripherals?) You could pair any desk rearrangement with the other idea upthread of having the whole team come in one day and make a big noisy fuss of “OMG, we’re all back in the office together!” and bustle around setting up, and you just happen to end up with fewer workstations so your workstations are mostly occupied most days.

      1. LW #5*

        “People in the office book (and use) a conference room with a frequency that’s inconvenient for the complainers.”

        I like the “be careful what you wish” for energy of this idea!

    53. 49Floor*

      Also, if there are obvious articles of clothing that are left there, those can be moved within someone’s cube. When I was in the office I had a shawl that I hung on the back of my chair when I wasn’t wearing it, but sometimes I’d take it off and forget it on my desk, or slung over the arm of the chair vs. the back, etc. It was clearly a piece of clothing meant to stay at the office, but wasn’t always exactly in the same spot in my cube.

    54. Avarice*

      You’re in luck! It is Halloween season in the stores, so it will be easy to find 5′ and 6′ skeletons just about everywhere. Each person in your department should buy a skeleton and dress it appropriately (with wigs too) and bring the skeletons into the office. A couple of skeletons should be seated at desks. A few more should be standing outside cubicle doors “talking” to those inside. One should be at the copy machine. Another about to reach into the mini fridge. You get the idea.

    55. All Het Up About It*

      #5 – You are going to have so many options to go through! I’m honestly not reading them all right now, so this idea could have been shared already.

      Have a box of “things” that the people who are in office strategically leave around others cubes. Think empty Starbucks cups, other coffee mugs or water bottles, jackets & sweaters, notebooks, heck – even old cell phones if you’ve got em. Then each morning people who are in office pull things out of the box and put them out at various members” desks. Key would be to pick them up too and make sure that the busybodies don’t see you doing it, obviously.

      Make it a point for whomever is in office to walk by busybodies and say hello each day.

      If your computers have screens that go all the way dark after the screen saver goes on, get mouse jigglers. Keep them in the “Box of Things” and put them on a couple of computers each day. That way when the busybodies walk by, an office will look more lived in with a bright screen saver opposed to a blank monitor.

    56. Susie*

      #5 makes me really angry, especially calling the other teams “office busybodies”.

      We have two teams who are refusing to come back and thinking upper management won’t notice. The rest of us have been back the way we were told to: in office most of the time, but working from home 1-2 days a week is okay.

      I *love* my 1-2 days per week and many of us who are “behaving” are worried that those two teams who are still fully working from home are going to ruin it for the rest of us. It’ll be very easy for management to say okay, if people can’t do this reasonably, then there’s no more working from home at all.

      So maybe the office busybodies are worried that your insubordination is going to make things worse for everyone?

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Maybe the office busybodies actually resent that their boss makes them risk their lives for no reason while other managers are more reasonable.

        At Yahoo many years ago, upper management found out that some of our remote employees weren’t even phoning it in. Instead of working with managers on how to effectively manager remote employees, they simply banned *any* WFH, and if people refused to move back to the area of the office they were sacked. The whole thing tanked morale, because the entire company was being punished for the incompetence of a few managers.

        1. Susie*

          I don’t understand what you mean by risking their lives? I’m not seeing that in the letter, but I might be missing something.

          1. penny dreadful analyzer*

            I think Curmudgeon means “going into a fully populated office during a deadly pandemic,” which, contrary to popular commentary, is still the situation.

            1. Susie*

              Ah, gotcha. Where I am (Canada), there are still some Covid-related policies in place but it’s quite normal to have been back on site for a while, and of course, many non-office workers were never able to work remotely. So I think that argument wouldn’t be reasonable here.

              And in my read of the letter, it doesn’t sound like LW#5 is worried about her health, it sounds like she’s being intentionally selfish and likely going to screw over the other departments in her workplace.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                So because it’s normal to ignore the presence of a potentially fatal virus in the environment it’s okay to do so, thus there are only selfish reasons to not want to work in an office?

                This is why I do not trust my fellow humans to make wise choices.

                1. Susie*

                  I think you’re taking my post in a very different direction from what I said, or what LW#5 was asking about, and I’m not sure where that’s coming from. I’m sorry that you’re angry but I’m not going to engage you further on this.

              2. Dawn*

                I’m also Canadian and that argument would absolutely still be reasonable here. Ontario’s hospitals are on the brink of collapse and case counts are spiking again with the return to school, in spite of Ford wanting to pretend that the pandemic is completely over.

                I have to agree with Curmudgeon here; you seem, from where I am sitting, to very much be downplaying the consequences of the still very real pandemic.

                1. Susie*

                  The letter writer didn’t mention the pandemic or health concerns as her reasons for refusing to go in to work.

                2. Dawn*

                  You were specifically talking about “Covid-related policies” upthread and said “that argument (the pandemic) wouldn’t be reasonable here” and that’s what I was responding to.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            Four words:

            COVID IS NOT OVER!

            In the US we are still having about 400 people per day die from Covid, according to the last statistic I read.

            One of my roommates had to quarantine away from the house for two weeks because she went to Burning Man and caught Covid. I have an immune compromised roommate as well, and we all take precautions to avoid killing her.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              I am self-employed, but the makerspace where I manufacture stuff is pretty much done with the pandemic. I’m trying to avoid going in until anyone who could’ve caught COVID at Burning Man is over it, and I’m not planning to do anything onsite that I could do at home. I’m definitely not complaining that they’re behind schedule installing my equipment.

              I’m worried that my apartment (home office) will get some kind of maintenance issue I can’t DIY my way out of (i.e. actual plumbing clog, not just hair stuck in the drain popup) because the landlord’s policy is that his staff do not need to wear masks on the property unless they’re unvaccinated. Never mind that we’ve had multiple outbreaks among the staff…

      2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        On the other hand, if upper management cannot afford to lose them (and it sounds like that is the case) and OP and his teammates are willing to risk termination since they have lots of other job options, it makes sense to use their leverage. If upper management pushes much harder, it may hurt the rest of you, but it will likely result in the company losing a lot of employees they really need right now. And if they are wise enough to realize they need to retain these people and not risk losing them, they may smarten up and abandon the in office requirement for not just OP’s team, but other teams as well.

        But honestly, while I get your concerns, I think we need to support employees who have leverage in deciding to use that leverage to get concessions from their employers. Employers have had the upper hand too long.

    57. Dawn*

      There was a South Korean sports team during the pandemic that put sex dolls in the stands to look like they had actual people watching the game.

      I’d guess that you can’t get away with that, but I’m amusing myself picturing it nevertheless.

    58. EAW*

      Could you set up a schedule so that there’s at least one person from your team in the office every day, for “coverage”?

      Also if can plan your days in advance, pick the days where there are big meetings (with other teams, or office-wide), to put in an appearance.

      Personally we’re doing similar things in my office, and I’ve had to try to reframe it mentally in two ways:
      1) Trying to get used to the idea of going in occasionally for no reason other than to keep my bosses/management happy. When I name this as the reason and just accept it as an annoyance, it’s easier than trying to pretend there’s an actual reason to go in and then getting frustrated each time that I went in for no reason. Instead I tell myself, no, there is a reason and that is to keep management happy and at bay – which I also value!
      2) Framing it as totally worth it to go in occasionally now (one day a week, for instance) in order to preserve my/our overall ability to work at home the rest of the time and for the longer term. In other words, if we make minimal efforts to “keep up appearances” now, and that keeps management/others happy, then there’s much less risk that they’ll pull the plug on remote work overall.

    59. nm*

      Set up some kind of WeWork type of rental system in your office– freelancers will be filling the place up all day!

  1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    OP 1 – yeah, do not do this. I’ve seen it a number of times, sometimes openly as this one is, but sometimes I’ve seen it listed as “Last Name Family Manager”. I think the thing to think about is something Allison talks about frequently – your linkedin, resume, and cover letter are marketing documents. How does listing that as work experience strengthen your candidacy for a professional job? Generally speaking, it does not. I think of it like someone applying to be a teacher saying “oh, I helped my kids with their homework” or applying to be a nurse saying “When my kid had the chickenpox, I helped nurse them back to health, and I’m great at kissing booboos”. It’s not impressive to say something like that, and comes across as pretty odd to use valuable resume space for something like that.

    1. Educator*

      I actually had a candidate for an education role say something similar once–“I know all there is to know about high schoolers because I raise two kids.” I wanted to be like, “Ma’am, I don’t know ALL there is to know about high schoolers and I have a handful of relevant degrees and certifications, plus years of teaching experience! They are an eternal mystery!” I resisted the temptation, but she did not get a second interview because it showed such a profound lack of professional awareness. Your sample size for evaluating the success of your work is literally two people who live in your house.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        That would set off red flags for me that they think…well, that teens aren’t individuals and will be one of THOSE education professionals who says stuff like “I think people are making too many excuses for the kid with ADHD. I/my kids never behaved like that at school,” when they/their kids don’t have ADHD. Or “standards are really dropping. Kids with intellectual difficulties aren’t performing at the level I was at their age.” It sounds like they lack understanding of differing needs.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I’m going to chime in with, there will be a lack of empathy or simply comprehension of different cultural, economic, family factors.
          He/she didn’t do homework because parents let them play video games.
          Not, I wonder if he/she takes care of younger siblings, has to work, doesn’t have internet at home, sick parent.
          Any factor outside that person’s tunnel view.

      2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings**

        There’s also something about this line of thinking that just feels….so condescending, to be honest.

        Like children are so cookie-cutter that if you know one, you know them all. I mean, does she truly believe that all parents are experts on teenagers? It feels dismissive of other people who work in the industry, dismissive to all the kids she would working with, and frankly, rude to her own kids, who are probably more complex than she is giving them credit for.

        I do think people make comments like this absentmindedly as sort of a nervous conversational tic, so she may not have meant it really, but I just wish those sorts of comments would die off.

        1. Cringing 24/7*

          I mean, having heard about *way* too many parents vicariously through my spouse who works in an elementary school – it’s not that she truly believes all parents are experts on teenagers – she just thinks *she* is and also likely thinks that every other parent doing something differently from her is raising their child wrong.

      3. Lilo*

        Both of my parents are actually specialists in child development, though very different fields. While they have four kids, that’s far from the extent ot their training. My Dad spent three years studying in a fellowship program in child neurology and brain development, after he was already a full doctor. And he attends conferences in his field every single year.

      4. Johanna Cabal*

        Sigh. My mom would probably have said something like that. She dropped out of the workforce after receiving her master’s degree in education to be a SAHP and never went back to work. To her dying day, she was convinced that if something had happened to my dad, all she had to do was apply for a guidance counselor job and show them her master’s degree and she would’ve gotten the job.

        Even as a fairly ignorant (at least ignorant about the workforce) teenager, I knew that employers like to see experience. Honestly, if something had happened to my dad, I probably would’ve been shipped off to my aunt and uncle’s because I doubt my mom would’ve been able to find a job to support us.

      5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I’m trying to imagine my mom or dad saying this. The 3 of us were so different the only conclusion they could draw would be, “Teenagers. Anything can happen”

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      This was such a thing during remote learning. “I don’t know what the teachers are whining about, my kid’s at home right now so I’m the one doing all the work!”

    3. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      It’s not relevant to the work AND:

      – depending on how it’s phrased, you run the risk of being belittling to working parents, some of whom are likely to be interviewing you

      – anything you list on a resume you’re opening for discussion in an interview and presumably you don’t want your interviewers feeling entitled to question your decisions about your family

      – OF COURSE there is arguably a cross-over in skills between parenting and other areas of life, but for me these things always come off clueless because that’s true for everything!! Many areas of life help you develop skills that you can employ in unrelated areas. This is well-known. Do not explain this to your interviewers as if they don’t understand that.

      1. Less Bread More Taxes*

        Your last point is great and shows that you absolutely can bring up being a parent during an interview if it’s relevant, but that doesn’t mean it belongs on a resumé.

      2. The Original K.*

        Yes re: belittling working people (not just parents). Listing SAH work on a resume or other paid-work-centered platform very often comes across this way, in my experience.

        1. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

          It has always rubbed me the wrong way when people describe being a SAHM this way and talk about how hard it is. My first thought is always, “my mom did everything you do–raised me, kept the house clean, did the shopping, everything–and also had this fun little side gig called a full-time job.”

          1. Lilo*

            I mean and a lot of working parents lost childcare during the pandemic so we did both month for months or even over a year. So, yeah, it’d probably rub me a little the wrong way.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Yep. One of my friends has 5 kids, all under 10 in February 2020, a husband in construction so working at home isn’t an option, and she manages a department of 6. She might straight laugh at someone who did this. Not that she thinks parenting is easy but because it is only one of her jobs

          2. Meow*

            Except, presumably, you and your siblings went somewhere while your mom was working her FT job. I would hope she didn’t let an infant or toddler stay home alone for 8+ hours a day. Likely, you were with other family or in a day care center or had a nanny or some other arrangement. SAHMs do that day part too, which is a lot of work. I’m not a SAHM (no kids) but it bothers me when people denigrate SAHMs jobs.

            1. Lilo*

              Except very recently a lot of us didn’t actually have anywhere for our kids to go. My son was basically home for most of his one year old year because of the pandemic.

            2. LittleDoctor*

              MANY families with two working parents can’t afford outside childcare. They share childcare duties while taking opposite shifts, like one working a night job.

            3. Em*

              i think culturally the advice not to put it on a resume is correct, but that it’s a reflection of our culture where childrearing is considered “womens work” and therefore not valuable, difficult or compensable. and I think that’s very sad.

              1. tessa*

                Apples and oranges. Parenting doesn’t have the same measures of accountability as formal employment. Not always, but generally, parenting is a choice that morally and ethically can’t/shouldn’t be abandoned, while people freely leave one job for another without moral or ethical conflicts. And so on.

                It’s really not complicated.

            4. Fluffy Fish*

              I don’t think its denigrating to point out the reality that parenting has its’ challenges regardless of whether you are a stay at home parent or working parent and that most tasks are shared for both.

              Yes, a working parent may have outside childcare, that is true. But a stay at home parent providing that childcare still isn’t the equivalent of say a daycare provider. A daycare provider would put that on a resume because it is a job that requires training and skills and often licensing and specific education in early childhood.

              Working parents care for their children evenings and weekends – it’s not a lesser skill because they don’t perform it M-F 7-5. It’s just different.

              And then what about single parents? Foster parents? Grandparents acting as parents? Parents of children with complex medical needs? etc etc. The takeaway is it’s all hard in its own way, it all requires work and no one has it easy.

              None of it belongs on a resume.

              1. The New Wanderer*

                “None of it belongs on a resume.”

                Absolutely. Not because parenting/child-rearing isn’t hard or valuable, but because it does not give someone unique qualifications for a job.

          3. Meep*

            My Dad was the SAHP for a few years when he lost his job. He ended up working as a duty aid at my school before easing into teaching. Mind you I was 8 and my sister was 5 when he lost his job so we were already in school, but he made being a SAHP look easy. Probably because he was already doing the laundry and cooking.

          4. Sunny*

            Yes, yes, yes to this! I’m always on-call for my kids, even when I’m at the office. I’m still dealing with all the chauffeuring around, managing the schedule, doctor’s appointments, homework help, laundry, housecleaning, etc. The assumptions that working parents are not doing these things are ridiculous. My laundry doesn’t get up and march itself into the machine while I’m at work. My kids have all the same questions and problems and issues – I’m just dealing with them in the evenings and weekends – and well into the night.

            And incidentally, having done both these “jobs” at the same time has only further clarified that the tasks/roles you take on at home aren’t actually the same as professional work experience.

            And, I don’t care how many stomach ailments you may have diagnosed, unless you’re writing prescriptions, at the end of the day, you’re taking your kid *to* the doctor, which isn’t the same as *being* the doctor.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I remember a new graduate who wanted to list things like attending class on time on her resume as examples of skills she honed as a student that were just like being at work.

        That every other applicant for this job would also have this “work” experience hadn’t occurred to her.

        1. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          Right? And it’s so hard to build a resume, especially when you’re young or have had time away from work, so I am sympathetic. But you risk conveying that you think something is a ‘special skill’ when it’s just the bare minimum, which is unsettling.

          1. londonedit*

            Exactly, it’s the bare minimum thing. The fact is, when you have children you sign up to a lifetime of (one would hope) loving them, caring for them, looking after their wellbeing, taking them to the doctor, buying them new shoes and clothes, feeding them properly, making sure they go to school, trying to make sure they turn out as reasonable human beings with empathy, etc etc etc. That *is* the job. I don’t mean that in a ‘well you chose to have kids so you deal with it’ way. But looking after your children’s wellbeing really is the absolute bare minimum expected of a parent, just as keeping one’s life in vague order is the absolute bare minimum expected of any adult, or turning up to classes on time and doing the required work is the absolute bare minimum for a student.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          It’s like the library job applicants who think all they need to say is that they love reading so much and helped their friend alphabetize their bookshelf one time, when we’re asking for work accomplishments.

          I get that people want to say something that they think will set them apart from the crowd, but listing these kinds of personal life things that a lot of other people also do isn’t going to do that. If it does make you stand out, it’s not necessarily going to be in a positive way, and the thing you absolutely don’t want to do in your resume is make yourself memorable as “the weird one.”

        3. Meep*

          Ok, but to be completely fair, that is a skill many people haven’t mastered. I had a coworker who would get in at 2 PM and leave at 8 PM because he never learned to have a normal schedule. He was not alone! Loved him to pieces though.

        4. Fluffy Fish*

          Oh this one pops up a lot. You see it frequently with recent grads listing things they did as coursework as “job experience”.

          Its not.

          That’s all encompassed and assumed under the umbrella of earning your degree. For the most part you had to go to class and do your work and work with others etc etc etc. When you list your degree, we know that you both learned material AND did things necessary to learn the material.

          Internships are fine to list as work experience.

      4. Amy*

        Yes, I think the writer is assuming the person reading the resume won’t have much experience with what’s involved with parenting. But why?

        If as a working mom, I read this resume talking about time management and child development after I got my 3 young kids ready for preschool and elementary after taking the previous day off for one of their colds and needing to arrange childcare for an upcoming overnight work trip with a reminder on my phone to find a reading tutor specializing in dyslexia and to start gathering items for their Halloween costumes, I’d find it very strange. I understand what’s involved with raising kids and it’s not a part of our business. It’s fine to explain the gap with “Stay at home parent” but the descriptions feel off-putting. I don’t put “Own and maintain a historic home” and “Working to create 1 acre of ornamental gardens” on my resume either.

        1. Your Father's Brother's Nephew's Cousin's Former Roommate*

          “Own and maintain a historic home” and “Working to create 1 acre of ornamental gardens”

          Ha! I love these examples, and I think they illustrate the point very nicely. Specifically, this isn’t about the merits of raising children, or staying at home versus working. It’s more an acknowledgement that we all leave things off our resumes, even things we might consider the most important to us – unless, of course, they are directly related to the job to which we are applying.

        2. Clobberin’ Time*

          The writer has almost certainly been told (falsely) that beings SAHM is valued just as much as a paid job, and that’s because she is a “cook, chauffeur, manager”, etc.

          1. A*

            The only resume I’ve come across as part of a hiring panel where SAHM was listed – it was 100% a textbook example of this. Title was ‘CEO & COO of Household Organization’ along with a novel length multi-paragraph explanation of their contributions to the business operations of their house, and ‘managing’ a team of three (children) etc.

            ….we chose not to proceed with an interview. There might be some industries (maybe?) where this would fly, but corporate business not so much.

          2. PersephoneUnderground*

            I mean, that’s the disconnect to me. In a discussion of value to society and how much this should be respected in a cultural way, being a SAHP absolutely should be valued as much as working a paid job- and historically hasn’t been given the respect it deserves. But when applying to a paid job, it’s not really something you can claim gives transferable experience on its face, so it doesn’t belong on a resume regardless of its intrinsic value.

        3. Underrated Pear*

          I think many people (rightly!!!) feel that the skills and hard work needed to be a good SAHM – or any kind of parent – are overlooked in society. But what they are in turn overlooking is that while these skills have great value, it’s not like they really transfer to a work environment. I was just thinking about this recently when I was talking to another mom who only-half-jokingly said when she re-entered the work force, she was going to put duties like “dispute manager,” “skilled negotiator,” etc on her resume. It was all I could do not to cringe outwardly. Like, I’m sure the CFO of a Fortune 500 is a skilled negotiator, but if they tried to use those tactics to settle an argument between two toddlers, they would fail spectacularly. What makes you think it would work the other way around?

          1. chewingle*

            The part of this that sticks out to me is “good SAHM.” A *good* SAHM is a highly valuable and important role in society. The issue is that skill level and job performance are very difficult to prove — both due to the lack of authoritative references and the fact that being a “good” parent is subjective in many ways. We can look at anything from the notorious Mommy Wars to…an abusive parent who refuses to acknowledge the damage they’ve done (imagine being that person’s manager).

      5. Calling Card*

        I was fortunate to be a SAHM from the late 80s until my kid started high school. In that time I did participate in a number of school- and community-based activities and translated some of that experience to resume bullet points under the heading of “volunteer experience”. Without getting to specific about which organizations were involved, I listed my years as a counselor for a non-profit helping women and kids, that I co-chaired the PTO’s biggest fundreaiser for three years, was a weekly volunteer in the school computer lab for nine years, developed a data base for making scout permission slips a snap to generate, and wrote and published a newsletter for a hobby group. These experiences were all relevant to the field I was re-entering and I had done my best to keep up with the changes in my field. I got a job on the first try.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I see that differently from putting Stay At Home Parent as an entry in a resume. In a lot of cases, volunteer opportunities are structured similarly to paid work and they use a lot of the same skills. Listing the work you did as a parent volunteer for your kid’s classroom is different from listing the parenting itself.

          1. The Tin Man*

            Plus, as Alison points out, in volunteer positions you are accountable to others who are not your direct family. Even if standards are sometimes not as high as they would be for a paid employee “volunteer work” is a lot closer to “paid work” than “family management” in terms of scope and accountability.

        2. Temperance*

          That’s completely different to someone bragging about being a CEO of their house or Manager of Purchasing for grocery shopping. That’s valid experience where you are accountable to others.

        3. Hats Are Great*

          I did basically that too, and I called out relevant volunteer work in my cover letter. I would be upfront in interviews that I took time off to raise my kids, and stayed busy with volunteer work, and kept up on my field with continuing ed. But I figured I didn’t want to work anywhere that was going to be judgy about me taking time off for my kids.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Driving a car is a complex skill that requires big-picture thinking, attention to detail, and on-the-fly fast reactions based on sorting multiple inputs. Actual lives are at stake with these decisions.

      But it’s also a common adult skill, and would be weird to list on a resume with all the sub-skills you demonstrated by driving to the interview.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Love this example. Does a really good job of showing why parenting doesn’t belong on a resume in a way that acknowledges that parenting is a skill and involves a lot of work, but not in a way that makes it relevant for a resume.

    5. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Although this sort of thing absolutely should not go on a resume and doing so would make a job candidate look really out of touch with workplace norms, I don’t hate it as much on a LinkedIn profile. Maybe I just don’t take LinkedIn that seriously, but I see a little more room for being a bit tongue in cheek with “job” descriptions when most of the people who will be viewing the profile are already friends and colleagues.

      1. Purple Cat*

        I can see it as a tongue in cheek posting on Linked in to explain the gap. But the write-up included here takes itself too seriously. There was an LI post going around recently where someone lists their Apple, Google, FB experience and it takes a second to realize it’s all as an end-user. It’s funny though.

      2. Your Father's Brother's Nephew's Cousin's Former Roommate*

        That’s fair, and probably fun for someone who isn’t searching for a new role. I’d still suggest taking things like this down when actively job hunting. A lot of people wind up looking at LinkedIn pages for additional career info or common connections, and it’s probably not worth the risk of looking out of touch with workplace/job search norms.

        1. ferrina*

          Yeah. It also alienates folks who may do a lot of this in addition to their jobs (particularly single parents or folks without support). I’d be interested in knowing that you were a SAH and maybe hearing about one or two unique things that you did (if you were a volunteer at your kid’s school, led gardening club, had to navigate your kid’s unique health challenges and deal with healthcare/insurance/school admin, etc.), but the hubris of acting like it’s the same as a professional job would rub me the wrong way.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Yep. On LinkedIn or in an interview, presented tongue in cheek, works great. One of my friends did SAHP and when asked about their resume gap, they said, “parenting sabbatical” and then mentioned what they had done to keep skills fresh.

    6. Orange+You+Glad*

      Yea I would roll my eyes if I saw something like this on a resume. I’m not a parent but I appreciate that raising children is hard. However, millions of parents are able to do it while also working full-time and succeeding in their careers. I was raised by a mom that worked full-time, was President of her union, lead multiple committees that required extra hours after work, and mentored younger employees. Somehow she still managed to make dinner every night, keep the house clean and organized, and be present for me and my brother our entire childhood.

      There’s also a level of privilege that comes with being a SAHP. Many families have to have both parents working (or are single parents) in order to make ends meet and still manage to raise their kids and manage their households.

    7. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      The “dispute resolution” item especially struck me that way. Resolving disputes between small children over whom you have power is not the same as any kind of dispute resolution that is going to be relevant in any job.

    8. RedinSC*

      I think if it’s there, then you ask for a reference! HA!

      Ok, applicant, you mention your work at home for 10 years, I’d like to talk to your supervisor and a direct report!

    9. Rain's Small Hands*

      I agree it isn’t done, but I think the rationale is bad.

      For the past ten years I have run a small business with my business partner. She and I built the business from the ground up – she takes care of sales, I handle all the accounting/backoffice stuff. Its about a $5M a year business now.

      There is no one I am accountable to – not in the same way I was when I worked for someone else. I work on my own time. An employer wouldn’t know if I did horrible at it. The only rationale Alison has is that it isn’t something that is a common life experience – although given the gig market, I’m not even sure that isn’t true any longer – lots of people have spent a part of their career as their own boss.

      I think its misogyny that we don’t count a woman’s time as a full time homemaker – we don’t value the work because it isn’t paid and its done by women on behalf of children.

      I still wouldn’t put it on a resume, cause its weird. But it shouldn’t be.

      1. Peonies*

        I agree so much with this.

        So many of the comments here are very indicative of how little we value something that is incredibly important to society because it is traditionally women’s work. Everything a stay at home parent does is completely discounted.

        I’ve worked, I’ve been a stay at home parent, and I’ve been a working outside the home parent. Stay at home parent was the hardest thing I’ve done. And many of the skills are transferable to many work places.

        I didn’t and wouldn’t put my time as a stay at home parent on my resume because I know that the comments here are exactly how that would be perceived. And that gap is insurmountable in ever re-establishing my previous career.

      2. Jennifer Strange*

        But with your business you can show specific successes and metrics. Also you have a partner who can vouch for your work and efficiency. I’m not saying misogyny doesn’t exist, especially surrounding women who choose to be SAHP, but it’s not misogyny that makes it not belong on a resume.

        1. Rain's Small Hands*

          I can put metrics around my year as a stay at home mom – some of them are quite impressive – I renovated a bathroom that year including laying my own tile and replacing my own plumbing. I reduced our food expenses that year by 30%, by more careful food management and procurement (we didn’t eat out nearly as much since I could throw food together during the day, I also baked bread before Covid made it cool). I mentored both my kids as they were entering high school, increasing my son’s GPA for the year from a D+ to a B- (he was one of those kids, which is how I ended up a stay at home mom for a year). I actively monitored our investment portfolio, beating the S&P500 for that year by 8%.

          It isn’t hard for a SAHM to have metrics, the thing is is that if I did that for a stupid job it wouldn’t sound laughable that its on a resume. Because I did it while staying home with my wayward son (who is now a productive adult) – it isn’t resume material.

          1. Rain's Small Hands*

            Oh, and my husband would be HAPPY to vouch for me as a SAHP. And not everyone running a small business has a business partner – does that invalidate their business as a resume item?

    10. Hats Are Great*

      I hate it when people do that. I find it condescending to me BOTH as a former stay-at-home mom AND as a currently-working professional.

      I mean, yeah, for sure, I’m a more mature employee than I was before I had kids — I’m much more even-tempered and I’m used to keeping my head in chaotic situations. (I’m naturally a rather high-strung person, so gaining some forced mellowness from having kids was good for me.) But … most people get more mature as they gain age and perspective, sometimes from kids, sometimes from AN ENTIRE PANOPLY OF POSSIBLE HUMAN EXPERIENCES.

      I get why people WANT to do this — the job-search process can be cruel to anyone with a gap in their resume, and there’s a side helping of misogyny that women with kids get. Sometimes people assumed I spent time as a SAHM because I was stupid or incompetent. But it does make the applicant seem smug and out-of-touch.

  2. Observer*

    #2 – Training your manager.

    Yes, your bitterness is absolutely clouding your judgement.

    You’ve got two choices here. Talk to the right person (or people) in your chain of command (or maybe adjacent to it) about the extra work you have been doing and see what kind of compensation you can get for that.

    The other choice is to look elsewhere. It sounds like you are good at what you do and it’s still a pretty strong market, so you it’s quite possible that you could find something as good or better.

    In no case is not doing your job a reasonable option. And refusing to train your manager on the specifics of your software, processes and general institutional knowledge IS refusing to do your job. On the other hand, there is a good chance that the way you handle this situation could affect your opportunities down the road, for better or worse. You don’t want it to be “for worse”.

    1. Erica*

      I think you have a third and better choice as well, #2.

      I also work in govt and while I totally agree with Alison and above comment that you deserve extra compensation, at least in my govt setting that’s just not feasible — bonuses don’t exist and pay for retroactive work or temporarily training others just can’t happen bc of civil service rules and salary approval processes .

      But I understood there were 2 positions at that level and only 1 hired. Can you go to Michael and ask what it would take to be a strong candidate for that 2nd position or for any future promotions, to make sure you’re doing what you need to be on that path?

      Govts are losing a lot of workers and while they don’t have the flexibility for pay increases etc that private sector does for retaining staff, they might be very motivated to try to keep you through the channels they can.

      1. Anonymous Koala*

        This is a great suggestion! I also work in gov and we have been told that retention is a high priority for most agencies right now. It’s definitely worth a big picture conversation with Michael to see if you’re a fit for that other position.

      2. Raven*

        I like this idea. It signals clearly OP’s intent to move up as well as getting useful feedback. Moreover, it’s likely to highlight the work OP has taken on as a natural part of the conversation.

        OP could raise their concerns via workload though if they are asked to train. If they’re still doing their old duties as well as the assumed ones and the training, that needs to be highlighted. Maybe for OP’s role it’s fine, but in a lot of places that would be too much to take on without things slipping. OP needs to have the conversation of exactly what they’re expected to do and what they can delegate/put on the back-burner, as well as give a timeline on how long they think training will take and who needs to be involved.
        This conversation would again work to highlight OP’s performance in their current role, which could leave them in a better position for future promotions.

      3. BatManDan*

        Along those lines, since there are two of that position budgeted, see if you can be make “acting supervisor” and receive the pay and benefits of that position while you train the incoming supervisor. It would reflect the level of work that you’re doing and will be doing, and it could be a great chance for you AND the org to figure out if you belong in that role permanently. (Ideally, they would have moved you up on a temp basis when there was nobody above you and you had to step into those duties, but I doubt you’ll be able to make a case for retroactive pay.)

      4. The Happy Graduate*

        Often what they can do is give unofficial time off in lieu of money. One of those “take the next few Fridays off on us” to make up for the inability to give bonuses/raises outside the approved bands. OP #2 should ask about that option

        1. Lizzianna*

          I would not recommend this. Time sheet fraud is one of the few things I’ve seen people get fired for. Even if your supervisor is okay with it, they can’t protect you if someone in J
          HR or the IG’s office wants to pursue it.

          1. The Happy Graduate*

            Interesting, I guess it depends on the office then. I’ve worked in both DnD and Health departments and this was very common, particularly as everyone is salaried with no overtime anyways.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              I agree, I see this quite often. From an HR perspective I don’t see it as fraud if your manager signs off on it.

              1. Cmdrshpard*

                I think it can depend on if the boss has the authority to grant that extra leave.

                For fair pay/transparency reasons it makes sense that companies don’t want managers giving certain employees but not others extra PTO. You can end up with unequal treatment of equally deserving teams, or you could also end up with a manager that used it unintentionally/intentionally to discriminate against people.

                If a company explicitly forbids managers from having authority to grant extra PTO it is fraud.

            2. Ness*

              When I first started as a Fed ten years ago, it was common for supervisors to grant their team 59 minutes of leave, with the idea that that was the maximum amount they were allowed to give without paperwork. But after a couple years, we got “clarification” HR that basically amounted to, “WTF, that’s never been a thing, stop doing it.”

              1. Happy*

                That’s weird! 59 minutes definitely is a thing and is still common in the agencies I’m familiar with.

            3. Starbuck*

              Right, it’s not like you have to (or should!) lie and say you worked that day to get paid. You just don’t enter hours that day, but also don’t get your PTO charged.

          2. Starbuck*

            It depends on how exactly the time tracking system works. You don’t necessarily have to enter anything fraudulent to do this. When I was salaried (that’s key, not hourly) if I worked a lot of extra hours one week, my supervisor would be fine with me taking a day or half day “off” the following week. All I’d do is not enter any hours on my time sheet for that day – not saying I worked, but not charging my PTO either. Since I was salaried my pay rate didn’t depend on the ~exact~ hours I worked. This was common practice in the organization, came from the top and no one thought it was sneaky.

        2. Peonies*

          What I have seen in the government is time off awards, which are official and in the books. And this is the kind of situation where I have seen them used so I think that is worth exploring.

      5. MCMonkeyBean*

        I was wondering about that second position as well, but since it didn’t come up again in the letter I thought maybe that position was frozen or eliminated a while ago? If not I agree that I would pursue that.

        But also remember that once your new boss comes in, you won’t be reporting to Michael anymore! Pam will be the one presumably doing your reviews and considering promotions; why would you want to start off on such a bad foot with her? Be helpful to her and show her how good you are at your job and how important you are the the department and hopefully she can help with your career path in the future (unless your path is to leave, which would also be a valid choice).

        1. Observer*

          Be helpful to her and show her how good you are at your job and how important you are the the department and hopefully she can help with your career path in the future (unless your path is to leave, which would also be a valid choice).

          The thing is that even if the path the OP chooses is to move out of the agency, Pam could be useful to her.

      6. Observer*

        But I understood there were 2 positions at that level and only 1 hired. Can you go to Michael and ask what it would take to be a strong candidate for that 2nd position or for any future promotions, to make sure you’re doing what you need to be on that path?

        This is an excellent idea.

    2. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Yes, I agree, it seems like their bitterness is definitely clouding judgement. I’ve had 3 new hired-from-the-outside managers in my career and the best thing I did was help them get acclimated to our systems, etc. Not only did it bode well for me to forge a positive connection to my manager, but it also helped get them integrated into the department more quickly to handle their managerial responsibilities. In one situation, I reported to a department high-up that was let go by ownership. They had a replacement already lined up, but because it was kept quiet from employees ahead of time, the change was sudden and unexpected and there was no transition period. We just showed up one day to discover we had a new manager! It was a bit unnerving, but I can say that my willingness to help train this manager was a great benefit to me in the end as well.

    3. Snow Globe*

      I’d also add – don’t hold it against this new manager that you weren’t hired and that you didn’t get a bonus or raise during this period. It’s not the new manager’s fault, and if you come in with resentment, that will poison the relationship right from the start.

    4. RIP Pillow Fort*

      I work in govt. and have absolutely been in the exact situation OP is in. I have had to train my manager more than once in a job I applied for. My advice is the same. You have to let this go and figure out what you need to do to move up if you want to stay.

      It’s normal to be upset but I think what helped me put it in perspective is that I’ve never stepped into a job that didn’t need some level of training. Being a manager is no different and this is an opportunity to learn from Pam what she brings to the job. If you had gotten the job, there would still be something they’d have to train you on and you’d have to train someone to take over your job.

    5. EPLawyer*

      Definitely for worse if they refuse. OP how you handle NOT getting the job will tell your employer a heck of a lot about you. If you refuse to train the new manager on the processes and systems, it will show they were right to not promote you. Because it says a LOT about your judgment.

      I get you are disappointed about not getting the job. You have every right to your feelings. What you should NOT do is let those feelings torpedo your career.

      1. Always a Corncob*

        This. I’ve been in the same situation and it was really hard to swallow my pride and train up my new manager. But it was the best thing I could have done for my career and my reputation. I think of it as a corollary to “living well is the best revenge” — refusing to train the new manager or doing a half-assed job will primarily hurt you, not them. This is a chance to make a great impression on the new manager and showcase your valuable skills. Maybe they’ll be a fantastic boss and you will find you have something to learn from them. And if not, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere. But in any case, don’t let the bitterness lead you to self-sabotage.

    6. Antilles*

      “Talk to the right person (or people) in your chain of command (or maybe adjacent to it) about the extra work you have been doing and see what kind of compensation you can get for that.”

      Both you and AAM/Alison have mentioned this, so I’m wondering: Is getting paid extra to train people really a common thing?

      Every time I’ve had to train others, it’s fallen under under the broad umbrella of being part of the team or the nebulous “pitching in where needed”. If it takes up a huge amount of time, I can say that I’m going to put Other Task X on hold or object on the basis of workload. But it’s never even crossed my mind to ask for extra pay for doing some general training of new employees (even if they’re more senior to me).

      1. Observer*

        Both you and AAM/Alison have mentioned this, so I’m wondering: Is getting paid extra to train people really a common thing?

        The issue is not the training. If that were all there were to the situation, I wouldn’t suggest it. The issue is that the OP has been handling a lot of the work of the manager, while still also handling their current position. *That* is the extra work that is under discussion. And since the OP will have to train the new person, it means that it’s going to be a while till the OP can fully hand off the additional duties.

      2. All Het Up About It*

        I don’t think it’s necessarily the training – although I have heard a few places will do that. It’s the fact that the LW has essentially been serving as the Interim Phyllis/Pam that could/should earn them extra pay.

        I was in an interim position at one point in time and I absolutely got extra pay during that time.

  3. The Prettiest Curse*

    OP#2 – if you refuse to train your new boss, not only will it go over like a lead balloon with the rest of your management team, it will also blow up your relationship with your new boss.
    Choose another way to express your (justified, it sounds) bitterness about not getting the job, and consider how you’d feel if you landed a new job and didn’t get the training you needed because the person best-placed to train you decided instead to take their frustration with the hiring process out on you.

  4. Twix*

    Definite no for #1. SAH parenting is absolutely a job in many senses of the word, but it isn’t being employed. I think it would be fine to mention on a resume to explain a gap in employment. However, people have a general understanding of what parenting and running a household entails. Trying to pass it off as professional experience with corporate buzzwords is going to come across as either flippant, disingenuous, desperate, or clueless, and none of those are a good first impression to be giving.

    1. Artemesia*

      Not only in appropriate to list, but it is one of those things that will soundly turn off some people so strongly that your otherwise strong resume would not get you through to the next round. It reminds me of the college student who wanted to describe her college years as if they were a job similar to the description in the OP’s note here. EVERY college student has similar experiences just as nearly every human has to manage their life and household outside of work. The cutesy description of ordinary life tasks as if they were employment makes the applicant look silly.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, this is what really turns me off about it. It’s like those ‘before everyone else is even at work, here’s a list of all the things a mum has done!!!!’ memes where it’s like ‘got kids dressed, made breakfast, found three pairs of shoes, fed dog, retrieved child’s book bag, made sure everyone brushed their teeth’ etc. Just…no. Everyone has basic tasks they need to do in order to manage their life and their household, whether they have kids/pets/elderly parents/a second job/caring responsibilities/a long-term illness/whatever. I could list all the things I do ‘before everyone else is even at work!!!’ but who would care? It’s called everyday life.

        1. KateM*

          Well, before *I* am even at work, I have gotten kids dressed and made breakfast, too, and sometimes retrieved childs’s bag etc. But usually, I have not found any shoes because I have taught my kids to keep them in the correct place – does that count against or for me as a mother?

          1. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            Exactly. To me that’s one of the other issues that I always wonder about whenever people want to list ‘personal’ stuff on a resume. This is basically inviting your interviewers to judge your personal decisions as they would a work decision, which seems like bad boundaries?

            Do you really want your interviewer asking you about parenting decisions you made and judging whether those are a reflection of good parenting or not?

          2. Artemesia*

            That definitely makes you management material: ‘effectively delegated shoe staging such that 95% of the time children left the house shod’

            1. Lenora Rose*

              95% of the time means once every 20 days the kids run outdoors barefoot or in socks…

              This reminds me of a school IEP that made the rounds of a parenting group, which listed a goal as “(child) will cross the road in a safe manner 80% of the time.” I mean, I know what they were trying to express, but nobody wants a child crossing the road unsafely for ANY percent of the time.

          3. learnedthehardway*

            Exactly – for working parents, the parenting/homemaking is kind of table stakes for their lives. So someone emphasizing parenting/homemaking on their resume is NOT going to be impressive, and it WILL raise questions about whether or not the candidate can handle work responsibilities on top of their parenting/homemaking activities.

            Now, if the candidate mentioned they had taken a few years out of the workforce to care for their family, and during that time had taken on significant community service or volunteer efforts, THAT might be worth mentioning – but probably would be better suited to the “Other activities” area of the resume – eg. Parent/Teacher council; Scout troop leader; etc.

        2. Lilo*

          I’m a mom and my kid has had the flu this week. So I’ve been up with him most nights this week. The fiscal year also ends on Friday so that’s also been fun.

          It would absolutely rub me the wrong way.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Yes, it makes someone look really out of touch and anaware of normal professional beahviour so it immediately raises the question of what else they will be weird or unprofessional about.
        Not to mention it also gives of a bit of an entitled parent vibe (my life is So HARD because I am a parent, I work SO HARD as a parent) that I would be concenred that the will be the person who expects eveyone else to cover for them, and expexts to be prioritised for time off at popular times because they have children etc. Which of course may not be the case, but but it does have that kind of flavour to it!

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Agreed. The challenge(s) you are navigating doesn’t have extra points attached to it because it was caused by your child/ren*. That’s not a trump card.

          You’re not extra tired beyond other tired people because kids. You’re not extra broke beyond other broke people because kids. Your lateness is not extra excuse-able because kids. The challenge may have been caused by your children, but that doesn’t mean it wins over the challenges of other tired, broke, late people.

          And that’s before you consider the other parents in the workplace who manage not to make their challenges everyone else’s problem. A lot of people are parents. It’s ALLLLLLLL challenging.

          We ALL should have as much flexibility as possible in our jobs, because we ALL have challenges. But parenting-related challenges aren’t special or automatically first in line.

          *There are a couple of other challenges that can be substituted here. I have known people who think their long commute should excuse them from X or Y. Living two hours away doesn’t give you extra points, either. Whatever your challenge is, it doesn’t mean that you should get held to a different standard. We alllllllllll have a challenge.

        2. Marie*

          @Bagpuss, stop pitting workers against workers. I’m a full time working parent AND I feel “entitled” to use my PTO and sick time for when I need it, eg including dependent sick care or when my child’s daycare is closed. But for using my PTO and sick time, I couldn’t participate in the workforce. The problem is not entitled working parents, but employers who don’t have mechanisms in place to ensure adequate coverage for offices when employees utilize guaranteed benefits and/or employers who hold unrealistic expectations about work productivity around federal holidays.

          1. Less Bread More Taxes*

            Bagpuss is not saying working parents don’t deserve flexibility. They are saying that working parents who think they deserve more flexibility than other working parents (for some arbitrary and intangible reason) make for difficult team members.

            If I had a coworker with kids constantly expect their other coworkers with kids to be covering for them, I’d be wondering what makes them think their family is so much more important than everyone else’s.

            1. snarkfox*

              I would actually argue that it doesn’t matter who does and doesn’t have kids. Working parents who think they deserve more flexibility than people without kids also make for difficult team members.

          2. BethDH*

            I agree with Bagpuss and I take my full benefits (I’ll be home with a sick kid today, as it happens). There are some parents who think that their parenting takes precedence over everyone else’s needs, and it shows up in exactly the way that resume listing appears: it doesn’t occur to them their experience is not exceptional.
            This isn’t limited to parents, though that’s the way it shows up most in the workforce and in the social media version. I’m betting a lot of these people are the ones who would flake out on cleaning common spaces in their dorms because they had to study for classes, but I can’t say for sure since I didn’t stay friends with those types.

          3. hbc*

            If the extent of “covering for” you expect is when your coworkers deal with taking your allotment of leave, Bagpuss was not talking about you.

          4. ecnaseener*

            Bagpuss didn’t say anybody shouldn’t use their PTO. They said it was entitled to expect to be prioritized over other people just because you have kids. It sounds like you don’t expect to be prioritized, so you’re not who they’re talking about!

            I don’t see it as “pitting workers against workers” to say some working parents act obnoxiously entitled.

          5. L-squared*

            While I get your point, I have worked with too many of the entitled parents Bagpuss has mentioned, over time, to fully ignore it. Yes, the system is broken. But that doesn’t mean i need to be the one covering for you. Also, i get tired of the double standards of “Jane can leave early for her son’s baseball game/to pick him up, but you can’t leave early to do something on occasion”. Again, I fully understand its a management issue, but that does lead to some entitlement from the parents that they are catered to more, and that their things are more important.

            Everyone should be treated equally.

            1. This is It, Really*

              Everyone should be treated fairly, which is not exactly the same. Your logic is overly simplistic.

          6. Colette*

            There’s a difference between needing time off to care for a sick child (which most working parents need on occasion) and insisting your time off for holidays be prioritized because you have kids (i.e. “I can’t work Christmas, I have kids!”). And that’s not on the employer – if a shift needs to be worked, it needs to be worked. The ER doesn’t close because it’s a holiday, a furnace outage needs to be resolved, a broken pipe needs to be dealt with, etc.

          7. Cordelia*

            I dont think Bagpuss was doing that though. I am not a working parent, and I also could not participate in the workforce if I was not able to use my PTO or sick time when I needed it, because I also have a life and responsibilities outside work. Some federal holidays need to be worked in some fields, including mine, it’s nothing to do with employers having unrealistic expectations. I think Bagpuss means (and if they don’t, I do…) that the concern would be that this person would be one of the ones who expect to have e.g. Christmas off all the time because they have children, or always to be able to leave early while others cover the unpopular shift times, etc.

          8. snarkfox*

            No one is saying not to use your PTO and sick time when you need it. But you’re not extra entitled to PTO and sick time because you have kids. People without kids are entitled to use just as much PTO and sick time that you do….

          9. Michele*

            Surprised by how many of these comments are pretty unsupportive of parents – would have expected better form AAM readers! Our society and workplaces dramatically fail to support parents – and it is such a hard job. It’s often dismissed because it is (well, least until a recent Supreme Court decision) a choice to have children, or because your mom was able to handle it fine – but it is really hard to know exactly how difficult and unsupported parenthood is until you’re there – lack of parent leave, limited sick leave, difficult to find and afford child care, challenging child care and school schedules, school closures, inflexible workplaces, judgmental bosses and colleagues, etc. Calling parents “entitled” is ridiculous given how completely we fail to support parents.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              I don’t see anyone being unsupportive of parents (and I say that as a parent). I see people saying that being a parent doesn’t mean someone should get more flexibility than non-parents, which is true.

              1. This is It, Really*

                Former parent here. Everyone should get the flexibility they need, period. Folks should stop the comparisons and pettiness. I will say non-parents had absolutely no understanding of the challenges I faced as a single parents also caring for an elderly parent. Would a little compassion kill anybody? I was just trying to keep all the balls in the air, not entitled in the least. This was decades ago, but apparently nothing has changed, which is sad.

                1. Michele*

                  Yes, agree completely with this sentiment. Everyone should get the flexibility and support they need – and by and large, parents, especially single parents and those also dealing with other challenges, are not getting that support. Having been a non-parent and a parent, the amount of flexibility and support I needed has absolutely been much higher as a parent – sure, in my younger days, I would have loved to have as much flexibility as possible but I didn’t need it to meet my responsibilities and keep my family healthy.

        3. Less Bread More Taxes*

          I totally agree. Most adults of a certain age are parents, and they (along with childless adults!) have to share work responsibilities despite having lives outside work. When someone makes a statement about their particular life being so much more busy and so much more important than everyone else’s that it’s deserving of resumé space, I’m going to be concerned that they’re not going to fit in well with a team environment.

      3. Antilles*

        Yeah, there’d be a lot of working parents who would see that and roll their eyes super hard. Especially if it’s a single parent, who’s doing the same tasks the SAHM is trumpeting while *also* working 40+ hours per week.

    2. ferrina*

      One of the biggest differences between SAHP and paid work is that as a SAHP you get to set the standards, and for paid work your employer sets the standards. This is a key difference.

      I’ve worked in childcare and I’ve been a working (office-job) parent. The expectations are way different between childcare and parenting. Childcare standards are set by the state and the employer and by research organizations (NAEYC); parenting standards are set by the lowest common denominator. As a childcare worker, my priorities are set by my boss; as a parent, I’m the authority (though good luck convincing my kids of that). Being able to support someone else’s vision and work towards someone else’s priorities is a very, very different skill from setting and working towards your own.

      1. Commenter*

        Yes, agree – even things like ‘manage the household budget.’ With no information about whether that is done WELL (because presumably there’s no ‘oversight’) that’s not really helpful! Obviously you can also be bad at your job or have a manager who’s totally checked out, but showing that you have tasks and kept your job because presumably you did it well is a big part of work experience.

        1. Yorick*

          And people have different definitions of managing their personal budget well. Are you growing your household’s wealth, or just making sure the bank account doesn’t go negative?

    3. Mockingjay*

      As a former SAHM, I agree. When I reentered the work force, I emphasized volunteer work and freelance editing to show that my skills hadn’t stagnated. That I got the laundry done weekly and the kids to their after-school activities on time – isn’t relevant.

      I get that a SAH parent is looking for a way to bridge the non-work gap. Acknowledge the gap and describe how now you will build on your old skills to be successful in the role.

  5. John Smith*

    re #1. If I had a candidate who did this, I’d be asking for references from her children just for giggles. But what strikes me is the phrase “volunteer position”, as though it’s optional to care for ones children. That really worries me (though maybe I’m reading it wrong).

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I think it’s simply to distinguish it from paid employment, rather than an indication of how they view parenting.

      If you were doing it as a paid job, the appropriate title would be something like “live in housekeeper and nanny”, and you’d have references who weren’t related to you.

    2. DyneinWalking*

      If I had a candidate who did this, I’d be asking for references from her children just for giggles.

      And that is a very vivid example of how it really isn’t a professional job. As a rule of thumb, one should ask themselves the following questions:

      Is there anyone the potential employer could call as a reference? (This rules out anything where no-one but yourself has any interest in how well the job is done. Exception, any project that creates a tangible result that the potential employer can view and judge and which is relevant for the job – e.g. art pieces, websites, downloadable programs with viewable source code, etc)

      Is there anyone the potential employer would call as a reference? (This rules out kids)

      Is there anyone the potential employer would believe if they gave a reference? (This rules out relatives, friends, and anyone who would profit from you being employed and earning (more) money)

      1. bamcheeks*

        I know this is how things work, but I am struggling to see a hard and fast reason WHY it’s that way other than the broader dismissal of work traditionally associated with women. If you’d been an EA for your spouse in their business, all the exact same things would apply but people would never tell you not to put it on your resume.

        1. Allonge*

          I see your point, but if a man decides to stay at home with his kids, this applies just the same.

          And if you are a bad EA, and bad for the business, your spouse can find another EA (but remain your spouse). Also the value of the reference would absolutely be less than if you are working for someone not related to you.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Hence “work traditionally associated with women”– it’s not about this person specifically being a woman, but about the way the work itself is gendered and what kind of labour is taken seriously.

            1. Allonge*

              But it’s not true in this context. A nurse, social worker, kindergarten teacher or teenage babysitter can put their work on their resume. A writer or programmer who only wrote (code) for their own amusement or someone working on their own garden or car.

        2. Asenath*

          Someone working as a mother doesn’t have her income on the line if she doesn’t do well and doesn’t have references from someone who is not related to her evaluating her work. Women are often in exactly the same position if they work as an EA (or anything else) in a family business when it’s one of those situations in which she has no one other than a close relative to speak to how well she does the work, and, sometimes, a small or even non-existent salary because she’s “just helping out with Joe’s business”. It would be the same the other way around. I’ve known men who took on the home and children role, but when they re-entered the workplace, they didn’t cite that experience, but their education and previous paid employment.

          1. bamcheeks*

            >>Women are often in exactly the same position if they work as an EA (or anything else) in a family business when it’s one of those situations in which she has no one other than a close relative to speak to how well she does the work, and, sometimes, a small or even non-existent salary because she’s “just helping out with Joe’s business”

            They are, and it’s a problem for someone who is in that position to provide references. Someone who has run a business might have the same problem, especially if it was something like a retail business and they didn’t have major repeat-business clients who could function as references. But I’ve never heard that used as a reason why those things shouldn’t be on a resume— generally, I’ve heard people saying yes, you should talk about that and the skills gained just as you would a job even if it isn’t easy to give references.

            I’m not saying it should be possible or that it’s desirable for people to put that on their CV like that– I personally wouldn’t advise anyone to! — I’m just not super satisfied with the idea that it’s easy and obvious why you shouldn’t.

            1. RagingADHD*

              It’s not easy and obvious that you shouldn’t put your personal life on your resume as if it were a job?

              Before I was a mom, I still cleaned my house, cleaned myself and did laundry, paid my bills, performed first-aid on myself (and sometimes my significant other or friends), planned my meals, grocery-shopped and cooked, transported myself where I needed to go and managed my own schedule. Which could get complicated sometimes, depending on my social life, work responsibilities, and job hunting.

              These aren’t job functions. They are life skills that adults of all genders are expected to be able to do. There’s a baseline assumption that you can do these things to a minimally acceptable level, simply by virtue of getting the application in and showing up to an interview on time, wearing clothes, and not stinking.

            2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              This happened to a friend. She was the EA/Office Manager/Lynchpin upon which the business turned for 24 years. Then they had an ugly divorce and she had no references from a manager. Luckily they had customers and vendors who were willing be references.

        3. KateM*

          Where I live “I was EA for my spouse in their business” would absolutely read as “my spouse gave me a fictive job so that I’d have all the benefits that come with being officially employed while I was in fact doing whatever I wanted”.

          1. doreen*

            Same here – I wouldn’t expect someone to say they work at their spouse’s business unless the business was a professional practice of some sort. It’s not uncommon to hear someone refer to doing the billing for their spouse’s dental practice but I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say that they work in their “spouse’s business” for any other type of business. It’s always ” our business” regardless of how it may be set up legally.

          2. ScruffyInternHerder*

            ::chortles softly::

            I suspect it would read interestingly close where I live, simply based on someone’s recent assumption upon hearing that my husband owns his own business that “oh, you must work for him as his office manager, that must be nice (eyeroll)”. “Actually, no, I don’t. I have a full time career in a completely different field; no idea how his office functions, you’d have to ask his office manager”. I might have been a little less snarky if they’d not rolled their eyes during their statement to me.

        4. Less Bread More Taxes*

          I think you are getting too distracted by the traditional gender roles. It has nothing to do with gender. Any role that you weren’t getting paid to do, had to do regardless, have no tangible results to show*, and don’t have any references for is not something that belongs on the work section of a resumé.

          * I’m including this part because I know that some parents will boast about getting their kid into a good college or a good sports team or similar as a testament to their parenting skills, but I find that rather insulting to parents of kids who, for example, struggle academically. Children are individuals and therefore there is nothing tangible or demonstrable that is purely the result of good parenting.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Any role that you weren’t getting paid to do, had to do regardless, have no tangible results to show*, and don’t have any references for is not something that belongs on the work section of a resumé

            I wouldn’t agree with that, actually. I think there are plenty of situations where volunteer and pro bono roles can be included in the work section of CV, and whilst tangible achievements are preferable there are some situations where that’s not possible and listing skills/knowledge acquired or duties undertaken is the next best thing.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Volunteer and pro bono would be not things you “had to do regardless”, though. Often with those you do have tangible results or some sort of supervision that can provide a reference.

            2. Less Bread More Taxes*

              That list is applicable when every item is checked. If only one or two are checked (such as volunteer work that doesn’t have tangible results), then I think it could work on a resumé (so you’d still have unbiased references and it wouldn’t have been work that you had to do no matter what).

          2. Irish Teacher.*

            I find the last rather insulting to the kids (the claims, I mean, not anything you said) as the parents seem to be taking credit for their achievements. Kids can and do achieve these things despite poor parenting just as a kid can have great parenting and not do so, for all kinds of reasons.

            1. Less Bread More Taxes*

              I totally agree. I’ve achieved a lot of great things in my life, and I’d be sickened if my dead-beat parent took any responsibility for them.

        5. Cat Tree*

          I mean, I’m a woman and a single mother so I do all of those childcare tasks in addition to working a full time paid job. It’s not that the work is unimportant, only that it’s not really something to set you apart for most jobs because most adults over a certain age have the same experience.

        6. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          I 100% agree that we devalue parenting work in our culture, but IMO this practice in no way meaningfully addresses that or pushes back against it.

          If anything, it belittles it further, since it implies that parenting is a ‘job’ in the 9-5 sense when it is much more multi-faceted than that.

        7. hbc*

          It would be the same situation if a guy put Tech Support on his resume because he’s always helping friends and relatives with their computers and phones. Or Electrician or Plumber because he’s done a ton of work on his house. No one actually knows if you’re any good at it. My grandfather did a pretty impressive job of plumbing and wiring his house, but it could have been used as a final exam for safety inspectors.

          I mean, sure, a SAHM with zero other childcare experience is a better bet than someone who has literally never held a child in their professional or personal life, but neither has anything to put in the Professional Experience section of their resume.

          1. L-squared*

            this is a perfect counter. Just because I’m “good with computers” and help my friends and family with their tech needs, doesn’t mean I can put that on my resume.

          2. Irish Teacher.*

            This. I’ve written a couple of novels, but the only thing relating to writing I’ve mentioned online is a competition I won because writing for myself has no accountability. Sure, it involves skills I use at work, but there is nothing to say how hard I worked on it or how good it is other than my own word.

        8. Boof*

          Allison already outlined – there’s no non-invasive way to evaluate performance / minimal accountability in personal/family tasks. Nor should there be.

        9. RagingADHD*

          If your spouse has no employees in their business other than you, then there is nobody to call. And in that case, being an EA isn’t much of a credential anyway, because you probably aren’t interviewing for positions in a 2 – person business. If the experience were relevant, you’d have other coworkers the interviewer could talk to.

          I think you’re also missing the very important point that all the tasks listed in the “job” add up to “I am a functional adult who hasn’t had my credit ruined for nonpayment of bills, had my house condemned for hoarding, or had my children removed for neglect.”

          It’s the equivalent of listing a paid job and including the accomplishments “showed up mostly on time” and “turned my own computer on all by myself.”

          As a mom who was a SAHP for five years, and a working mom since, I do not find it devaluing in the least to say that being a SAHP is not at all like having a job. There are paid caregivers. Being a parent is not the same thing, it shouldn’t be the same thing, and I don’t think anyone in their right mind would want it to be.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            That’s all true but I think the point was to explain the large resume gap, not that SAHP is exactly the same as an engineering manger at Corpotech – at least that’s how it comes across to me

        10. L-squared*

          They’d say put it on your resume, but everyone would know that calling the spouse as a reference would be pointless. So yeah, the EA skills would be there (theoretically), but you’d have no way to realistically know how well they did. So for the most part, that job is a placeholder which probably isn’t being weighed heaviliy in their candidacy

        11. Twix*

          I think it comes down to context. As I said, I think it would be fine to list SAH parenting as a line item. I also think it would be perfectly reasonable to discuss in a job interview how skills developed in that role would be applicable to the position. But the dynamics of a household are very different from the dynamics of a workplace. Parenting is not experience managing employees or handling conflict between direct reports. Managing a household budget is not experience doing accounting and ordering and inventory management for a business. Making decisions about your own interests and schedule is not experience working for someone you’re accountable to without supervision. It’s *work*, and work our culture absolutely undervalues, but it’s not *employment* with accountability to superiors or customers or market forces.

          To the point about someone having experience as an EA, the difference is that if that position is a legitimate one then it is experience working in a professional environment. However, work experience where there’s a questionable level of accountability – self-employment, working for family, etc – absolutely is subject to a higher level of scrutiny.

        12. Gerry Keay*

          I mean, I think people would be wary if the only reference a person could provide was from a spouse!

          I see it as less about the labor itself and more about the accountability. There’s just no ethical way to check that said person actually did the job of parenting well and wasn’t like, I dunno, neglecting their kids or something. There are no metrics, no clients, no revenue, no NPS scores — the only people who could grade the performance are the kids, and whether or not they’d even be an accurate measure is questionable itself! Parenting is like a black hole of provability.

        13. snarkfox*

          I don’t see it as “dismissal of work traditionally associated with women.” There is plenty of dismissal of “women’s work,” but this doesn’t seem like an example of that to me. The tasks she lists are things most people do, whether or not they have kids. I don’t have kids, but I also have to manage time and money, but I’m not going to list that on my resume.

          The stereotypical male equivalent would be, idk, car maintenance. If a man put it on his resume that he changed his own oil, that would be equally inappropriate.

      2. ferrina*

        Yeah, how would you evaluate parenting? Get a child psychologist to do a full evaluation of your parenting strategies and the long-term impacts?

        Professional educators have a set of standards that they teach to (that is also true of daycare workers). They are evaluated against these standards and there is third-party oversight. Are the education standards always good standards? No, but then again, what job always has 100% great priorities and standards? Knowing how to perform to someone else’s expectations and standards is a necessary skill for a professional job.

    3. River Home*

      I took “volunteer position” to mean that she (and her partner) chose/volunteered to have kids.

      I also like the interpretation that stay at home parent hood is unpaid. Either way, I think it is meant to be lighthearted and you are probably over thinking it if you were interpreting it to mean that caring for your children is optional.

  6. Sue Wilson*

    OP 2# I think you are being bitter and it is clouding your perspective but Alison’s answer might give you a way to think about this.

    First: what does anyone coming into your department need to know? You can start here, and you might find that’s all anyone was asking you to do anyway.
    Second: what does separate your boss’s job and your job? If there are things in common, yes you’d need to train your boss that, just like you’d need to train a co-worker. The things that aren’t in common, you have more standing to demur as part of the things Alison’s says aren’t your responsibility.
    Third: what does someone who is going to judge your efforts need to know? I know Alison says you don’t need to train her on how to manage you, but I do think this is an opportunity to think about the framework you hope your new boss uses and how you can influence that.
    Fourth: If you’re going to ask for a bonus of some sort, ask before your new boss gets here, so that whatever the response is, it doesn’t affect your relationships with your new boss.

    1. J.B.*

      Excellent points. I think that the letter writer should keep in mind the second open manager position and be strategic about asking for how to be considered for it. Or just move on to a different position.

    2. Allonge*

      I wanted to mention hte opportunity thing too – the person onboarding someone at their new job can make or break the relationship in a very meaningful way.

      OP, I totally see why you are annoyed! This is not a comfortable position to be by any means. But if you cannot handle the relationship professionally, it’s time to consider leaving for another job. Remember, your incoming new boss has not done anything to you; you are angry at the people who are there now.

      1. ferrina*


        If you come in with a bitter attitude, your new manager will know you as “the one who wasn’t a team player and let disappointment and personal agendas overrule team goals”. If you come in with a helpful and compassionate attitude, your new manager will know you as “the person who is immaculately professional and has a great attitude and is diplomatic in the face of personal disappointment.

        Personal example- Promotion came up at OldJob. I was the best qualified by a long shot, but nepotism came in and a waaay less qualified colleague got the job. She was entitled enough to even look down on me for applying for “her” job (after she was announced as boss, her first action was to turn to me and say “no hard feelings”, like she had the right to be mad that I had even applied). She was ready to stonewall me for being “jealous” of her. Well, I put on a happy face and made myself as helpful as I could. I supported her, trained her, gave her key information and suggestions. Within 2 months she adored me and saw me as her best staff member. I got to select my responsibilities (she hated doing anything) and chose opportunities that helped me develop my resume and get great accomplishments. 1 year later, I left for a job that paid $15k more than her job. As soon as I left, the entire department broke down. Turns out she couldn’t do anything without me and the entire department turned over within 18 months (when I was there we had very low attrition). You be your best you, and let karma do the dirty work.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I can vouch for the fact that this DOES work and this is how things play out.

          I can also add, that outsiders were incredulous, “You ARE this department, you can’t leave!” That explained why I was so flippin’ tired.

    3. Ama*

      I’d also just mention — the new manager may be willing to do some of the legwork here. I recently acquired a new manager, right as we were going into my busiest time of the year, when my direct report and I are doing a lot of tasks no one else in our org does (or even knows how to do). New manager has been at the org in another role for a few years but has only seen this process from the far outside. So in our scheduled one-on-ones she’s taken it on herself to bring questions for me – “You copied me on that email chain about X, do you handle questions like that a lot?” “Can you tell me a little more about how you do Y stage of this process?” “How much help do you get from [VIP advisory group] on this, do they just sign off or do they actually give you actionable feedback?”

      It’s been a very different and much less intense process for me than training a new direct report because I really don’t have to do much other than bring my institutional knowledge and answer her questions.

  7. Emmy Noether*

    #1 I know this kind of description is supposed to say “look, I did not just sit around eating bonbons all day!”. However, who are you trying to convince? Those that already appreciate stay-at-home-parenting as a full time (and the some) job won’t need convincing, and will fill all that in if you just put “parenting”. Those that don’t appreciate it will probably find it ridiculous. Most members of both groups will find it twee and misplaced. The number of people who will be convinced by this… tiny.

    As Alison said, it’s not like it could be checked or you could put any concrete achievements. What would you write? “Kept calm during intense bedwetting phase”? “Got Jane into advanced math program and Tim won first prize at piano recital”? Please don’t!

    1. KateM*

      I have actually been once mentioned in a local newpaper in the “Tim won first prize at piano recital” way. It still felt embarrassing even though I was mentioned as his teacher, not mother, but the relatively rare surname was the same (and I hadn’t wanted to be his piano teacher in the first place, but TPTB decided so!).

    2. Clobberin’ Time*

      The people who put this on their resumes are often coming from cultures where there is a pretense that being a SAHM is valued, and there’s a lot of cultural backstopping to reassure women that being an SAHM is not only what they’re supposed to do, but is in fact just as valued as paid work.

      Like those lists that add up all the ‘jobs’ a SAHM does and concludes that her equivalent ‘salary’ is six figures. Or that deducts all the costs of work (childcare, work clothes) from the salary she would make if she had a job.

      And so when a SAHM immersed in this culture IS looking for work, she’s coming from a POV where she’s been told (falsely) that her “natural” role as a SAHM developed job experience.

  8. Kim*

    Re: LW #1:

    the people who write such cringe-inducing passages fail to realise that parenthood can be done in so many ways as to be meaningless. There are parents who run their households like the military, there are people with 19 kids who only take care of the youngest and shuffle responsibility of the rest of to the older siblings, there are people who never manage to get their kids anywhere on time or who are always on time, people with medically complex children, people who treat everything with essential oils…
    Most kids will, for a long time, assume that the way they are parented is the default. So -unlike an office job- you can decide in large parts how this ‘job’ of parenting is structured. And therefore it’s not a ‘real’ job that goes on your resumé.

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      That’s such a good point about different parenting styles, and you really don’t want to discover that you and your interviewer have opposite ideas of how to parent kids.

    2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      Hard agree with this.

      I especially raised my eyebrows at this part: “Volunteer position requiring training in child development and behavior.” Umm, no? Sure, it’s great if a parent has that kind of training, but the idea that it’s a “requirement” is laughable. Plenty of people (my own parents included) become parents with no qualifications other than a functioning reproductive system. (And plenty of very qualified people experience infertility and have to jump though tons of extra hoops to become parents either biologically or through adoption. Ask me how I know!)

      That bit right there would have put me off considering hiring that person for a job, because it’s just patently ridiculous.

  9. STLBlues*

    LW #1 is so off-putting to me that, as a hiring manager, I’d immediately remove her from consideration.

    The first reason is due to many things already said in this thread — there are no real metrics, you don’t get assessed as you would in a real job, there’s no references.

    The second reason, though, is that it’s just life. Everyone takes care of their families (even if that’s just you) and their households (from studio apartment to mega-mansion). If anything, to me she’s making an argument that you should hire working parents vs. anyone who was stay-at-home. Working parents do all the same things but ALSO hold a paid job, whereas she could only do one of the two at the time.

    (being somewhat facetious here, for the record)

    1. Aria*

      “Working parents do all the same things but ALSO hold a paid job, whereas she could only do one of the two at the time.”

      This is not facetious — it’s ignorant and dismissive. And for the record I am a working parent — but I pay others to do a multitude of tasks that let me do that.

      1. STLBlues*

        Um, first, please look up the word facetious.

        Second, how do you know a stay at home parent doesn’t outsource anything? If you’re stay at home, are you now not allowed a nanny or house cleaner or lawn service? And must ALL working parents pay others to outsource tasks just because you do?

        YOUR experience is not the only experience. This is the entire problem with putting something like this on linkedin.

        1. Snow Globe*

          I don’t like pitting working parents vs. SAH parents, but this is a good point – I’ve known SAH parents who still hire someone to clean the house and put the kids in child care while they go to the gym. And plenty of working parents who can’t afford extra help. It’s so easy to make assumptions about how people manage these things, which may not be accurate at all. Which is another reason why this doesn’t go on a resume.

          1. Wisteria*

            So true! When my older sibs were toddlers, my mom was a SAHM, and my parents had a woman who they hired to help out. Then my brother and I came along, and there was no more help around the house, and my mom went to work full time a few years later when I entered kindergarten. Lots of different kinds of at-home vs working full time and help vs no help households around!

      2. Marie*

        I agree with Aria. I am a full time working parent as well. No need to pit parents against each other. This comment is out of touch with reality. I could not maintain my job but for the paid help my family enlists (meal delivery, daycare, dry cleaning, housekeeping etc).

        1. LittleDoctor*

          Lots of people are full time working parents with no outside help, including no outside childcare—they just work opposite hours with their spouse.

        2. snarkfox*

          I’d say your comment is also out-of-touch with reality…. I know so many single working moms who don’t have any of those things you listed….

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            And I know plenty of partnered working moms who don’t/didn’t have all of those things, including myself.

            The only “hired help” I ever made use of was day care (non‐negotiable, because my spousal unit and I worked daytime hours). I would have LOVED to be able to afford some of those other things, especially housecleaning help, but it was just not in the budget. The fact is, every parent’s situation is different and not everyone has access to to all the same resources, but all of us muddle through whatever way can and deserve respect for doing so.

            The off-putting thing about the resume sample in this post is that SAHM sounds like she thinks she deserves “extra” credit or something for staying at home with her kids when all that really means is that she (presumably) had a partner whose income was sufficient to support the family. If so, that’s great for her, but it does not make her more qualified for a job than a parent who had to go back to work right away to make ends meet or someone who is not a parent at all.

            I’m not saying she REALLY thinks that. I’m just saying she comes off that way, and I think that could be off-putting to some hiring managers. Which is a great reason not to do this!

            The only “hired help” I ever made use of was day care (non‐negotiable, because my spousal unit and I worked daytime ent and not everyone has access to to all the same resources, but all of

      3. Kim*

        facetious: “treating serious issues with deliberately inappropriate humour; flippant.”
        There ya go.

        And honestly, I’m so G-Ddamn sick and tired of the dichotomy of SAHP and working parents. Why can’t we collectively stop pretending that SAHP don’t have ANY paid support and working parents don’t have to lift a finger outside their job because they outsource it all?

        1. Clobberin’ Time*

          And let’s also stop pretending we’re talking about “SAHP” when this fake debate is really about mothers. Get back to me on the who works harder when it’s men whose careers suffer from fatherhood.

      4. Lilo*

        I mean, I’m a working parent. My kid’s daycare didn’t reopen for a full year do Inwas juggling both. I didn’t outsource any aspect of parenting, though I was lucky to have a flexible employer and similarly situated spouse.

      5. Cat Tree*

        Paying others to do tasks is still work. Managing things is still work. That’s why it’s so grating when old-fashioned men want credit for doing chores that their wife told them to do. She still had to keep track of it and make sure to remind him so that ball didn’t get dropped.

        It’s also part of why I pay a condo fee for my townhouse. Someone is doing the work of landscaping, but someone else is doing the work of looking for landscapers, vetting them, arranging services and payments, and handling it if they don’t do a good job. That’s still work.

        If anything you’re making the point that working parents would make better managers, although I certainly don’t believe that to be true.

        But also, when I was on maternity leave I paid for grocery delivery and house cleaning. Paying for help isn’t limited to working parents.

    2. Less Bread More Taxes*

      “Working parents do all the same things but ALSO hold a paid job, whereas she could only do one of the two at the time.”

      I don’t know if this is quite fair as my understanding of stay-at-home parents is that sometimes it’s an active choice rather than a choice done out of necessity.

      However, I would have a lot of concerns here. If a stay-at-home parent thinks that parenting is a full time job (and they would if they put it on their resumé), then how do they plan to balance two full time jobs? How do they think working parents make it work? Do they have concerns about giving up parenting responsibilities in lieu of actual job responsibilities?

      1. Generic+Name*

        Ha, for real. I’m imagining asking the candidate in an interview when they could start and what the standard notice period is for resigning their role as a parent.

      2. Jackalope*

        Frequently stay at home parents go back to work when all of their children have reached a specific age (often kindergarten, although that can vary), so the work of childcare is reduced. Toddlers generally require a lot more intensive care than elementary school students, for example.

      3. PersephoneUnderground*

        I’d say judging either way is flippant, since the necessity can go both ways – often one parent quits and stays home because they can’t afford to pay for childcare- maybe they could “handle” doing both but most offices frown on bringing your kid every day or attempting to work and supervise a kid at the same time if WFH. Their income from their job isn’t enough to cover childcare during their work hours and they don’t have flexibility in their hours enough to do things like opposite shifts. It’s one of many reasons women are more likely to stay home, since women are likely to make less money in a given couple.

        All of this is beside the point, but as a childless person I found it instructive to know all the different factors that go into these decisions to combat any preconceived notions of what a SAHP looks like.

    3. Emmy Noether*

      I think this touches on the point that execution varies so widely that it’s meaningless for a CV.

      One can be a stay-at-home parent with a live-in nanny, a cleaning service and a cook (if one has the money) and put the children in front of the TV the rest of the time. On the other end of the spectrum, one can be a stay-at-home parent that goes all-in with making a full program of field days, crafts, all kinds of enrichment, feeds the children home baked bread and treats, and keeps the house spotless oneself. Same principle for working parents.

      Any kind of comparison is based on some kind of assumption where on those spectra individual parents are, which one can’t know.

      1. Allonge*

        “One can be a stay-at-home parent with a live-in nanny, a cleaning service and a cook (if one has the money) and put the children in front of the TV the rest of the time. On the other end of the spectrum, one can be a stay-at-home parent that goes all-in with making a full program of field days, crafts, all kinds of enrichment, feeds the children home baked bread and treats, and keeps the house spotless oneself. Same principle for working parents.”

        And any of this may have little to do with how the kids turn out to be, which is the meaningful metric of parenting in the end. Home baked treats and craft days are nice but they are pretty marginal to becoming a fully functioning adult.

        1. my experience*

          While I don’t think this description belongs on a resume, I think that the way it was written for LinkedIn was intended to be humorous.

          Yes, this person could have been terrible at being a parent (but that’s true of all jobs — for any job someone lists on a resume there are 1,000 ways that job could have been).

          “We all take care of our families” is not quite true – some people don’t.

          If this were for a job in childcare, I would think stay at home parent experience was relevant. I have considered that before when hiring childcare!

          1. metadata minion*

            Someone with parenting experience is better than someone with no childcare experience at all, but I’d much rather hire someone with experience dealing with other people’s kids.

            This seems like an example of something that you could maybe put in a cover letter for an entry-level position — “my experience parenting my own children has inspired me to move into childcare as a career, etc., etc.” but looks very very odd on a resume.

            1. Allonge*

              Exactly. And parenting is parenting in this context – I not would make a difference between a stay at home and a working parent, especially if it’s all the experience they have.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I don’t know if there even is a meaningful metric for parenting. Getting them to adulthood reasonably happy and functional with all fingers, toes and teeth still attached sounds like a basic goal, but even then, shit happens.

          The personality of the child, how it meshes with their parents and environment also counts for so much… really all one can do is make an effort to give love and attention in ways that come naturally without being stifling, see them for who they are, try not to mess them up too much, and hope for the best. None of that is measurable. Or all that relevant for work.

      2. bamcheeks*

        One can be a stay-at-home parent with a live-in nanny, a cleaning service and a cook (if one has the money) and put the children in front of the TV the rest of the time</EM

        God, I really wish "putting the children in front of the TV" was the zero-intervention-required option that everyone pretends it is. Does nobody else put the TV on and then spend the next ninety minutes fielding arguments about whose turn it is and which programmes are too scary for your little sister and no you can't have crackers in the living room et cetera et cetera?

        1. KateM*

          Do you want to discuss with your hiring manager what does it say about how well did you do your job of being a SAHP if you haven’t managed to teach your kids to take turns at TV or not to eat crackers in living room?

        2. Amy*

          I don’t. The TV is one of those things that really has a clear logical consequence. If there’s too much fighting and it’s more trouble than it’s worth, it gets turned off.

        3. Emmy Noether*

          I only have one child, so that may be why it is very low-intervention in my mind, lol. Works scarily well, as if she was hypnotized. Doesn’t move an inch, doesn’t make a peep.

    4. Esmeralda*

      Actually, everyone does not take care of their families. In most (not all, but a very large percentage), that care-taking is done by a woman.

      And I’d venture to say that a lot of people think they know what that woman is doing all day long, but they don’t really.

      Still doesn’t go on a resume.

  10. Irish Teacher*

    I think one of the big issues with that idea of describing being a stay-at-home parent (or being a college student) in work terms is that…it often sort of misrepresents it anyway (and the boss will usually know what the reality is so that contributes to the looking out of touch). Like in the example, the inclusion of “accounting” when accounting as a job is very different from managing a household budget, plus everybody has to budget anyway, whether they are a stay-at-home parent, a working parent, a single person living alone, part of a childless/childfree couple, etc. It’s not really an additional skill parenting gives you. Sure, children are an additional cost and one parent staying at home CAN mean the budget is tight, but somebody who has been unemployed for a while will probably have had to budget more carefully, even living alone than a stay at home parent whose spouse has a large income and the boss isn’t going to know either what income they are dealing with or whether the applicant or their partner did most of the budgeting.

    And as others have said, THAT is the other thing. Little or no accountability. There is no way of knowing that the person DID effectively manage a budget or if they are massively in debt or in other ways, proved highly inefficient with finances. No way of knowing if they had good time management or if they were the parent who always showed up late to collect their child, whose child is always late for school, etc.

    1. ferrina*

      Try telling the Payroll team that you could do their job because you pay bills. You will be laughed out of the building.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I think what causes a reaction is how dismissive the work world is of parenting. Skip the part that every parent is raising future PAYING customers.

        I don’t know what the answers are, but every time I read “I took that application from the SAHP and put it in the garbage.”, I know we have a ways to go here yet. The fact remains is that someone took care of us when we were young and someone will take care of us if we are lucky enough to reach old age. It’s long been my belief that a good part of the cause of the lack of respect for these two jobs starts with Corporate America. And how many people have written here to say, “I have been a SAHP (or elder care) for x years. Now what do I do to get back in the working world.” Way too many people in my opinion.

        It’s pretty basic, if we do not have the next generation in the pipeline we will cease to exist as a country, eventually. Why Corporate America does not understand something so basic baffles me.

        Every person is a resource for our society. Every. Single. Person.

        1. ferrina*

          Um…not sure why my post got this reaction. I agree with you!

          SAH is often tough and is valuable, but isn’t the same thing as a professional environment and it’s naive to think of them as interchangeable–the same way that I wouldn’t say “I’m good at my job” = “I’d be good at SAH.” In fact, it was my experience working at a daycare that convinced me I’d be terrible at SAHP! There absolutely should be more programs/openness for folks with alternate experience to re-enter/enter the workforce, and be able to leverage their experience on the workforce. I’m a big advocate for diversity within teams- the more a team reflects an array of life experiences, the better positioned you are to be able to meet those needs and see opportunities.

        2. Just Another Starving Artist*

          Every person is a resource for our society, but every person is not a resource for every office.

      2. Allonge*

        Yes – I handle finances in my job even but I could not do what our accounting team does. My personal finances don’t come close and work under different rules.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      RE Accounting as a SAHM skill: Unless you do full double entry bookkeeping and payables ledger, this is a farce.

      Yes, I have done exactly that, administering the central account for a houseful of roommates, so everyone could see where the money was going and how much the bills were. I still have the ledger somewhere (it was in the 90s). I eventually moved it to small business accounting like Quickbooks.

      Simply maintaining a checkbook, house account and bills is nothing, and should be an everyperson skill. Managing the receivables from 5 people, payables for the household, and maintaining a contemporaneous ledger is actually close to small business accounting.

  11. GythaOgden*

    LW2 — you’re inches away from becoming someone’s BEC, probably the new manager’s. Resentment is corrosive to good relationships, and the trick is perhaps to work out what you need to do to build things up rather than destroy them. I was in your position in the summer for an external job, and it stinks, but at the end of the day that’s not something we have any control over. I was glad to have placed quite highly and took their feedback as a sign I am currently underemployed and am right to be looking for something else, but I really can’t advocate for letting it eat away at you. You need to challenge your impulses here and make this into a positive for you rather than a negative.

    I echo the advice about asking for a raise or bonus for doing the extra stuff you’ve taken on before your new manager comes in, and once she does, you work with her rather than against her. It’s not her fault you didn’t get the job, and taking it out on her when really you need to talk to your current supervisors would not reflect well on you.

    It’s a struggle. I’ve been there, though and it’s never ended well. It’s not worth the aggro and it’s unlikely to end up with greater compensation for the extra you’ve been putting in.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This is another question that baffles me, why are we so dismissive of this problem. “Of course you just train your boss!”.

      There are hidden things that go on.

      The trainer knows they trained the boss without compensation or recognition.
      The boss knows they were trained by a person who was forced into the situation and never compensated nor recognized.

      The boss may end up with a debt to the subordinate that they may feel they can never repay. The subordinate end up with a sense of entitlement that never stops. This is on a sliding scale so it could be more or less for each person.

      I have never seen it fail to happen that the trainer gets other privileges that their cohorts do not OR the trainer gets put on the s-list and never does anything right. I have see it go both ways.

      It’s a recipe for disaster. Just because it goes on all the time does not mean it’s a good idea. In some places I have seen upper management laugh at the new hire, “haha, your subordinates are going to train you! Good luck!”

      I see what Alison says about the difference between doing daily tasks and doing tasks that involve oversight. The problem here is that presumes the trainer only teaches the day-to-day stuff, reality is that seldom happens. The trainer ends up advising on hiring and firing and other long term efforts, basically doing the boss’ job through guiding the boss’ actions/questions.

      OP, you don’t know if they have hired a quality person yet or not. First find that out, before you let your sense of injustice run amok. A quality person can help balance things out for you.
      And next, see if you can negotiate to get that other position. Offer up that you can train the new boss in the daily stuff and she can guide you in the overview stuff. In the end your agency gets two thoroughly trained people.

      If this does not work, still be as nice as pie to this new boss. She did not create this mess she is just in it, just like you. Give her a chance to show she is a real human being and not a jerk.
      If nothing works out here, then it is time to dust off the resume and move on. Set a time frame, 1 year?, what ever makes sense in your setting. When the time is up, get those resumes out.
      I have trained a couple bosses. Each time I gave the company a bit to sort itself out. If nothing changed, I left.

  12. Jane*

    There’s a major and disturbing lack of empathy in these comments for LW #1. Child care is hard and expensive. There is no right choice, but families (or individuals) have to make one, and most often women are the ones penalized for it in one way or another, whether it’s by more limited advancement in the office or by discrimination in a job search when child care is no longer needed. This reads to me as an attempt to be taken more seriously going into a job search where she knows it will count against her. It might not be the right approach, but shortening it to a bullet point to explain a 10 year gap on her resume isn’t going to be well-received either. Reactions calling what is essentially proof of a societal failure to support parents (especially mothers) ridiculous without considering why this woman might be doing it really exemplify what’s wrong with how our society approaches mothers in the work place. You can’t win.

    1. PsychNurse*

      I was a SAHM until recently and I hard disagree with you. I think “2011-2021, stay at home parent” is fine. The paragraph listed is silly. I know the applicant is trying to be cute and light-hearted but I still think it comes off wrong.

      As Alison said, it’s just not relevant to the job. Unless MAYBE you are applying for a job as a nanny. (I was seeking a sitter at one point and I did consider it a plus if they had their own children.)

      1. Jane*

        So don’t list it. I’m not saying it’s the right approach, I’m saying that the “lol this is so stupid, how out of touch” reactions completely fail to exhibit empathetic thinking for why someone else might think they need to.

      2. Intent to Flounce*

        If I were trying to explain a gap just as you describe, I might add a tiny touch of humour!
        “2011-2021, stay at home parent (voluntary position, unprofessional references available on request)”

        Well, probably not, but it’s funny to picture.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I genuinely don’t think it would be that weird to use humour like that on LinkedIn. I don’t think humour belongs on a CV, but LinkedIn is social media even if it’s professionally focussed social media and there are tons of sectors where being a bit more personal or authentic works well.

          1. A*

            Completely agree. If I saw OPs comment on LI I wouldn’t bat an eye at it, I’d assume it was meant to be humorous and the landscape on LI has changed a lot in recent years. If I saw it on a resume however, it would be an automatic deal breaker. Not because of the employment gap or reason for it, but because it speaks to a lack of understanding of professional norms in my industry.

    2. KelseyCorvo*

      I would imagine some of the seeming lack of empathy comes from parents who either never stopped working and raised a family and never put it on their resume, or who did stop working to raise a family, and also never put it on their resume.

    3. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I’m not sure I see the same lack of empathy. People are not criticising her decision to stay home with her children (I took time off with mine!) they are criticising her resume, which is sort of what this site is about.

      A short line on your resume or in your cover letter explaining the gap is exactly what you should do, I’m not sure why you’re dismissing that.

      1. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Also worth noting that we’re all replying to a hypothetical scenario, since OP saw this on LinkedIn, if I read right, and the woman might not have it on her resume. I don’t hold LinkedIn to the same bar as resumes, so I think it’s not as bad there.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreed – A line on the resume, Stay at Home parent, 2011-2022 and then moving to other work or volunteer positions is okay. But I think listing out job duties the way you’d list out work responsibilities at a paid job is a bit much.

        And I’ve also been there and had to break back into the professional job world after being a stay at home parent. It’s Hard, but this isn’t the best way to do it either.

    4. Dinwar*

      My impression is the opposite. People are giving practical advice from the other side of the interview on how this will come off. That is FAR more kind than knowing that this will work against her and encouraging her to do it anyway.

      The comments about it appearing out of touch aren’t saying “You’re a stupid moron who should never be allowed out of the home.” They are made in a specific context–that of a hiring manager reading a resume with the intent to hire someone. It’s valuable to know how things will come across to the person evaluating your resume, in that it allows you to adjust how you write to better convey the information you want to show. And “out of touch with work norms” is a fairly specific sort of criticism. Again, it’s not an insult; it’s an evaluation of the person’s capacity to do the job.

      Which shows more empathy? Someone who knows you’re going to walk off a cliff and lets you do it anyway? Or someone who sees the cliff and re-directs you so that you don’t fall off it? Empathy does not mean blinding ourselves to reality; sometimes the kindest thing you can do to someone is to tell them “No, that’s not going to work, here’s what might.”

      And no one’s saying that parenting isn’t hard. Lots of things are hard but don’t belong on a resume. Being a good DM for a D&D group (or worse, Pathfinder with a group that likes unarmed combat/grappling) can be extremely hard–you have scheduling, and managing a team who by definition try to break all your rules, and plotting out campaigns, and mapping out potential outcomes of encounters, and a bunch of other things. But unless you’re doing it professionally, it doesn’t go on your resume. I have relatives that are volunteer fire fighters, and they don’t put that on their resume–it comes up in the interview, but it doesn’t belong on the resume for an engineer or mechanic. I know a guy involved in a program to help vets with PTSD and trouble re-integrating into the civilian world. Does it by extreme wilderness adventures–we’re talking a week at a time with only the food and supplies you carried in with you. Again, doesn’t belong on the resume.

      I have two resumes in my company, one for environmental remediation and one for environmental compliance. Both have been full-time jobs at different points in my career, but the skills are so different that it’s better to list them separately.

      It’s not the difficulty that determines if something is worth putting on your resume. It’s the applicability of those skills to the job at hand.

      1. londonedit*

        Exactly this. Where I live it’s fairly common to list a couple of outside interests on your CV, and the idea is that they’re things that give an interviewer a bit more insight into you as a person – and the idea generally is also that you might want to choose things that show you in a good light or that could spark a more general conversation about your broader skills. That’s where you’d put ‘volunteer firefighter’ or ‘keen marathon runner’ or ‘qualified rugby coach’ or whatever. But the thing is, while you might think running marathons shows that you can dedicate yourself to something and sacrifice things to get something done, it only shows that you can do that *outside of work* when it’s *something you enjoy doing*. Yes you’ll pull your trainers on at 6am and go for a 10-mile run before work if it’s on your training plan and it’ll help you achieve your personal goal. That says absolutely nothing about whether you’ll show the same dedication to your work, or to projects you’re not interested in. And it’s the same with parenting – you’re a parent because you want to be, you look after your children with love and care because you love them and care about them, and fundamentally a lot of these things like managing your own finances and hiring childcare providers are things that you *have* to do in order to keep a household running. They don’t say anything about what sort of employee you are, they only say something about what sort of parent you are.

      2. Loulou*

        but the options aren’t “comment exactly as everyone has done here” or “lie and say this is a great idea”…people could and should take the third option of kindly explaining their perspective while NOT making gleeful comments about how parenting isn’t a full time job because they have a REAL job, or ganging up on someone who seems to be going through it.

        1. Dinwar*

          “…people could and should take the third option of kindly explaining their perspective while NOT making gleeful comments about how parenting isn’t a full time job because they have a REAL job, or ganging up on someone who seems to be going through it.”

          None of the comments I’ve read do that. They’ve said that the skills involved in parenting aren’t the same as those involved in work, even when there’s an apparent overlap, and they’ve given reasons for it. Those reasons aren’t “ganging up on someone”, they are a rhetorical necessity. We can assume that the LW is unaware of these issues, or else she wouldn’t have written in. And from the interviewee side of the table, it’s not always obvious why managing the kids’ conflicting schedules isn’t the same as managing contractor schedules. Providing those explanations is, at least as I’m reading the posts, done with the intent to inform, not to attack anyone.

      3. metadata minion*

        “I have relatives that are volunteer fire fighters, and they don’t put that on their resume–it comes up in the interview, but it doesn’t belong on the resume for an engineer or mechanic. I know a guy involved in a program to help vets with PTSD and trouble re-integrating into the civilian world. Does it by extreme wilderness adventures–we’re talking a week at a time with only the food and supplies you carried in with you. Again, doesn’t belong on the resume.”

        If you have a bunch of specifically-relevant experience I agree these don’t need to go in it, but for someone earlier in their career these actually seem like exactly the sort of volunteer positions that should go on a resume! They require very concrete skills and are I would hope not the sort of position where someone could do a half-assed job and still stick around.

    5. Workin’ Mom*

      I’m a mom. I have been both a stay at home parent and a working parent. I agree that our society’s refusal to recognize the value of unpaid caregiving work is rooted in longstanding misogyny and classism. But it IS ridiculous to make a pseudo-job out of family caregiving responsibilities for the same reason it would be ridiculous to put “showed up to work on time almost every day” in a list of job responsibilities.

      The baseline assumption is that most adults should be able to handle some form of caregiving and household management obligations: for pets, for kids, for aging relatives, for friends. It’s true that IN PRACTICE these more often fall to women than to men, and that’s an issue that deserves societal scrutiny, but it’s hard to promote yourself as a desirable candidate based on the fact that you meet the minimum expectations.

      The way to fix societal misogyny and displace the centuries of expectation that society will continue to chug along based on the unpaid labour of women isn’t by adding a cutesy entry on your resume.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Almost bragging that they threw the resume into the garbage can is also not a way to fix societal misogyny. If the interviewer does not care for what is on the resume, then the resume can be set aside with the other rejects. There doesn’t need to be big statements about “I threw the SAHP’s resume in the garbage.”

        1. Workin’ Mom*

          You at you’re Not So New here, surely you know by how that this comment section is the land of hyperbole and taking unnecessarily strong stances??

          Most commenters were like “ooh, yikes, that’s a no from me,” a reasonable stance. A couple folks went over the top, as someone always does.

    6. Colette*

      No one are saying that caring for your own children isn’t work, or that it isn’t hard at times. What everyone is saying is that it’s not the same as a paid (or even volunteer) job where you’re accountable to someone outside of your family.

    7. Turingtested*

      I’m currently hiring and wouldn’t bat an eye at “2015-2022, stay at home parent.” However LW1 comes off as cutesy/gimmicky. it’s the same way I’d be turned off by describing any job in that manner. Seems like the applicant isn’t taking things seriously.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, the employment gap wouldn’t be a problem where I work, either, but trying to turn it into a professional accomplishment would.

    8. Feral Humanist*

      @Jane FWIW, although we appear to be in the minority, I agree with you. I’ve been really bothered by some of the responses here, and to a lesser extent Alison’s own. Parenting is critical and undervalued labor, and this person knows that the deck is stacked against her no matter what she does. I’m so bothered by the people calling it “cringe” (so judgey!) and saying she comes off as unserious and even that they’d dismiss her entirely as a hiring manager. That speaks to precisely the kind of unexamined attitudes that led her to do this in the first place.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        I’ve only seen one person calling it “cringe” and absolutely no one saying she comes off as unserious. Everyone recognizes that parenting is critical (Alison even says it in her response). That doesn’t mean it has any place on a resume, and if someone reading this was thinking of doing so it’s actually helpful for them to know how it will come across. No one is being judgmental of this person.

    9. Generic+Name*

      Hm. I was a stay at home mom for a while, and when I re-entered the job market, I had a statement in my cover letter that said I was a stay at home parent and was eager to return to work to explain the gap in my resume. People aren’t saying don’t mention being a SAHP at all, they are saying don’t try to make it sound like a professional job.

      1. Turingtested*

        I worked in a sandwich shop and performed time studies and numerous process improvements using techniques developed by Toyota. If I described that as “sandwich industrial engineering” it would be the same sort of mistake. There’s value to what I did and immense value in being a SAHP but I wasn’t doing industrial engineering and the SAHP wasn’t doing accounting.

    10. Well...*

      Yea this comment section can be pretty harsh in general. Luckily the mom in question didn’t write in directly, so she’s not here reading all the comments calling her ridiculous or whatever. A lot of these comments are a huge overreaction to a cute tagline in a LinkedIn profile, which some people don’t even use that much for professional networking (Hi there, I’m an academic). I think probably people don’t read the original post too carefully and then comment out of indignation for what they extrapolate the post is about or something.

      On a resume it wouldn’t belong, but that’s not where it was found.

      Anyways I’d like to see the government pay parents a certain amount per month to either spend on childcare, or give to SAHPs as a reward. I’d also like to see a more affordable childcare industry, and free services that trigger right after a baby is born to help watch the kids, make sure everyone is fed, and knows the basics of caring for an infant right after a family gives birth (I think they do something like that in the Netherlands).

    11. A More Brilliant Orange*


      There is a lack of empathy in most of the comments. And very little practical advice on how to demonstrate that the parenting experience wasn’t all watching TV and eating ice cream.

      There’s a real bias against stay at home parents and it falls particularly hard on women. Many a professional woman has taken a decade off to raise children only to find upon reentering the workforce that they are no longer viewed as the professional they were in the past. They have to reenter the workforce at a lower tier, even at the bottom again. And it’s not fair.

      Maybe the original question should have been: how does a person overcome the societal bias against women who take a break from corporate life to raise children?

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        I would also enjoy the answer to that question! I think that ideally this sort of thing could go in a cover letter or interview, just like saying how you obsessively color-code your personal files at home is a nice inclusion to show you’re a very organized person when applying to be an Admin Assistant. But that’s a more marginal case, because using a kid-based example like “I was always the go-to person for filling in as a ref at my kids’ soccer games.” invites bias into the room.

        So is it a good or bad idea to use parenting examples where you would use any other personal life example in a cover letter or interview discussion? Or is it best to avoid them, especially for women?

      2. Starbuck*

        “very little practical advice on how to demonstrate that the parenting experience wasn’t all watching TV and eating ice cream.”

        Because you shouldn’t and can’t do that. You don’t need to be demonstrating anything about your parents experience to strengthen job candidacy because it isn’t relevant.

        The extent of it, which I HAVE seen pointed out in various threads, is to list any related volunteering that was done (sports team coaching, classroom aide, etc) – activities where you were accountable to people other than your immediate household.

    12. SoloKid*

      > explain a 10 year gap

      Do employers really dig in to gaps in resumes? I’ve interviewed folks with gaps and never ask about them. I just ask them about the relevant parts on their resume, even if was 10+ years ago and assess what they could bring to the role from that.

      A bullet point about being a SAHP would be fine. A paragraph of space cutesy-ing it up when that could be spent talking about earlier experience would give me pause.

      1. PsychNurse*

        As a person who has done this, let me state the obvious: Nobody looks at a 37 year old woman who has been out of the workforce for ten years and thinks, “Hmmm I wonder what she’s been doing for ten years, why didn’t she have a job?”

  13. FashionablyEvil*

    #2–yes, you are rightfully bitter that your hard work and extra effort has not been noticed or acknowledged. That’s hard and it sucks. That said, the way to deal with that bitterness is not to refuse to train your new boss.

    A couple of pieces of advice that might be helpful:
    1. Never do anything that feels satisfying when you’re angry (that’s from a commenter here; it REALLY resonated with me)
    2. The high road often doesn’t feel good while you’re walking it, but it pretty much always feels better when you look back on it.

    I hope that once your new boss starts, she’ll have a sense of humility about what she doesn’t know and will be good at the things she was hired for and that this will all feel like water under the bridge after a few weeks/months. Good luck!

    1. Well...*

      If I followed #1, I never would have done a ton of important EDI work that still makes my CV stand out. Sometimes anger can be a really good motivator.

      1. ferrina*

        There’s a difference between anger as a motivator and anger as a decision maker. When anger drives your decisions, you often end up doing petty or vengeful things, or having straight-up temper tantrums (a la Karens). But if you channel your anger into motivation and drive, it can push you through a hard time.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This is a good example of channeling anger. Anger itself is not right or wrong, it just IS. What we do with that anger is where we start talking about right and wrong. If OP got really angry and dumped all the file cabinets out on the floor, that is not a good use of anger.
        If OP got really angry and built a plan for themselves to better their lives- personally and or professionally, that would be a good use of anger and well channeled.

        1. Well...*

          yup, sometimes working to make sure a thing will NOT happen any more can feel extremely satisfying when you’re angry. 5/5 stars, would recommend.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      Also, and I have encountered this enough that I use it often: Yes, you are bitter about not getting the job or not having it go your way. I get that. But it is not fair to sandbag Pam in her new job because of it. She didn’t get the job at you. She competed and won. It’s not fair to her to sabotage her success to satisfy your sour grapes.

      I have had lots of situations where I didn’t get the promotion, or my bosses decided to do things in a way that I didn’t like, or handed off a part of my job to someone else who had more availability but still needed training. The person coming in new to the situation doesn’t have the baggage, and it’s unfair for you to put it onto them. It’s not their fault they were chosen over you. Your beef is with upper management, not the new person.

      Go ahead and train Pam, then add it to your accomplishments for the year. Handling this with grace is a good career step – it will prove that you can handle disappointment and rejection like an adult.

  14. I'm Done*

    OP2, if you’re a federal employee, your boss should have done a temporary promotion for you, which would have entitled you to receive the pay for that position. However, it cannot be done retroactively so if I were you, I would definitely lobby for a bonus in the amount of the pay difference.
    Secondly, yes, you sound bitter and unreasonable. Either look for a new job or recalibrate your attitude. Because refusing to assist your boss in the ins and outs of the new agency is not a good look and not helpful for your career.

  15. Marie*

    @Bagpuss, stop pitting workers against workers. I’m a full time working parent AND I feel “entitled” to use my PTO and sick time for when I need it, eg including dependent sick care or when my child’s daycare is closed. But for using my PTO and sick time, I couldn’t participate in the workforce. The problem is not entitled working parents, but employers who don’t have mechanisms in place to ensure adequate coverage for offices when employees utilize guaranteed benefits and/or employers who hold unrealistic expectations about work productivity around federal holidays.

  16. Skippy*

    While I find the approach cringeworthy, I can’t entirely blame the parent cited in LW1 for trying to include their time at home with their kids as experience: our society seems to think anyone who is out of the workforce for even the shortest period of time is completely unemployable, and people with the dreaded GAP on their resume are encouraged to fill it with something, anything, so they don’t appear to be lazy. It’s ridiculous, and I wish we would just collectively get over it.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      Agreed. There seems to be an inability on the part of some hiring managers to distinguish between someone who job hops and someone who took time off to do something significant with their lives.

    2. Colette*

      I don’t think concerns about gaps on the resumes are because people think you’re lazy. It’s a concern because most people need to work, so if you’re not working, employers wonder why. Were you sick? Taking care of kids? In jail? Traveling? Did you get fired for punching your boss, or stealing, or sexually harassing someone?

      And skills do get stale in many industries, so that’s another part of the concern.

      1. A More Brilliant Orange*

        As a recruiter told me, employers want people who are in demand. A gap on your resume may indicate that there’s a reason you aren’t in demand.

        It’s like a house that’s been on the market longer than normal. People start to ask: What’s wrong with it?

        Both are stupid, but it’s the world we live in.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      So very much agree. No one talks about the times I worked 2 or 3 jobs they just want to know about the gaps. I have never had a boss who confused me with a lazy person. Ever. But let’s focus on the gaps instead.

  17. HannahS*

    OP1, there are lots of really hard things that people do that don’t count as work experience, and would be inappropriate to include on a resume. If someone managed their parents’ immigration paperwork as a teenager, if they cared for a spouse through terminal illness, if they planned a wedding, they almost certainly developed skills that they didn’t have before, but that doesn’t mean it belongs on a resume.

    1. PsychNurse*

      Yes I think this is what got me, too. (And I was a SAHM for many years). I have done so many things in my life that are evidence of how competent I am, but I can’t list them on a resume. One of those things is that I handle all of the scheduling and planning for my immediate family. So when we go on an international vacation, I am in charge of flights and hotels and museums and everything. And honestly, I am amazing at it. I think of every detail, and I make plans and contingency plans and it pays off in spades. But unfortunately I can’t list it on a resume. Similarly, I was great at being a SAHM and I now have a lovely 11 year old, but I just can’t list any of it, because what I did on a daily basis isn’t relevant to a professional application.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        However, SAHPs aren’t the only ones who have those skills. Plenty of single, childless people manage schedules, appointments, etc. for their elderly parents, disabled friends, etc., but nobody thinks they have a right to list that on resumes.

        1. HannahS*

          I agree, and I don’t think that PsychNurse was implying that she has those skills uniquely because she was a SAHM.

    2. my experience*

      I think the exception is for some jobs where there is a direct connection. Caring for a spouse through a terminal illness IS a qualification for running a grief group (not the only qualification, but one you might reasonably talk about in an interview about your interest in the work). Being a SAHM is childcare experience so might be relevant to nanny jobs! Helping parents with immigration paperwork might be something you mention in an immigration case management interview. I think that these life experiences — if they are connected directly to the job– might not belong on a resume but they might belong in cover letters/interviews.

    3. Pam*

      Yeah. I grew up in a toxic and mentally unstable family with multiple mental health conditions. It took a lot to survive and get to a healthy place. As a result, I know a *lot* about human psychology and sociology.

      I definitely can’t put that on my resume. In my early career, I’d occasionally reference things in interviews, but I would have to be very careful on how I did it. “How would I address this problem? I would start with X, which I’ve found works with most people. However, I’ve known people who have a strong negative reaction to X, so with this group I’d pivot to Y.” I’d never mention my family, since that would distract from my skills (and people would call me a drama queen because “all families have drama”. Nope, there’s a difference between drama and systematic abuse, but even if I had time to educate them, they wouldn’t want to hear it from me). Thankfully, I’m now later in my career and can point to tangible work achievements (I’m a master at getting stakeholder buy-in and talking down angry clients).

  18. Hiring Mgr*

    As a manager, personally I wouldn’t really care if someone put their SAHP on a resume. It wouldn’t help their candidacy in my eyes but wouldn’t hurt it either.

    My assumption would be that they’re just listing what they did while they weren’t in the workforce, not that they have no understanding of norms or are completely out of touch, or that they think childcare duties are similar to work tasks.

    To me it’s more of a “ok, cute but whatever” than “OMG this person is sooo inappropriate and out of touch”

    1. CharlieBrown*

      Yeah, but “cute” doesn’t belong on a resume.

      Putting cute on a resume means inappropriate and out of touch with professional norms to most people.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I agree, but I wouldn’t disqualify someone over it. Someone who has been out of the workforce for ten years may actually be out of touch with professional norms, or might be having difficulty re-entering the workforce and trying something to be memorable. It’s a miss, and I’d keep it in mind, but I’d still talk to them if the other qualifications are there.

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        Maybe so, but for me it’s not a huge deal. If it’s ok (at least per AAM) to include a one-line explanation, I don’t see why it would be THAT over the top to include the other stuff, to the point of immediate disqualification (as some have suggested)

        I suppose my assumption here is that the candidate doesn’t *really* think SAHP is equivalent to a professional job, but is worried about a long employment gap and how it comes across….. can you blame them given what we see here every day?

        1. Feral Humanist*

          Yes, precisely. Good grief. Also, I don’t know, maybe it *should* be considered equivalent??? Apparently this is a wild idea.

          1. metadata minion*

            Alison goes into a lot of pretty concrete reasons why it isn’t equivalent to the vast majority of paid employment — most critically, there’s no meaningful way to assess whether you were any good at it.

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                Okay, then explain how one would assess whether a SAHP was good at their job? Since you disagree I assume you have some concrete examples.

          2. Jennifer Strange*

            Also, I don’t know, maybe it *should* be considered equivalent??? Apparently this is a wild idea.

            It really shouldn’t, though. Not because it’s not difficult work, but because it’s not employment. Who would you give as a reference to verify any accomplishments or level of efficiency? How could a hiring manager tell whether you were actually good in the role or not?

            1. Hiring Mgr*

              Imo they’re not including it in the resume because they think it’s equivalent – but because she’s just trying to account for a decade long employment gap.

              Is it the best way to do that? Maybe not, but to me it’s not inherently unprofessional, or would immediately toss the resume. Also, it doesn’t seem to have held her back, since the end date is 2015

            2. Dr. Hyphem*

              Also, like, if I am applying for a job as a researcher, my whether or not I was good at my past researcher roles is certainly a factor a hiring manager will consider in making the decision. While it is certainly more complicated than “you are and always will be a good or bad researcher” past performance is certainly evidence I will be good at the role they are hiring for.

              Even if we could objectively evaluate how good someone is at being a SAHP, that does not necessarily translate into the best SAHP being the best for a particular job, unless the job involves childcare. And that’s without even getting into the huge amount of value judgments needed to determine whether someone was good at being a SAHP.

  19. Helvetica*

    LW#2 – aside from what others have said, I would also point out that you assume a lot about what kind of manager Pam will be, or what kind of help she’ll need. It is possible that the learning curve would be significant – just like it is possible that perhaps Pam is quick at grasping things, and will not need your constant help. You say that Pam has never worked for you before but concede that she more experience – so is what your agency does really so unique that she cannot have possibly ever come across these or similar programs and quirks?
    What I’m saying is, you are going into this with strong and not entirely founded ideas about how you will need to hold Pam’s hand through a lot if. But people are different and you do not know her. So perhaps adjust your mindset to be more open than assuming this will be a major hardship on you.

  20. Madame X*

    LW1 definitely don’t put down stay at home mom as work experience. You can list that you were stay at home mom for 10 years to explain the gap in employment. Alternatively, you could list volunteer positions you held outside of the home if it’s relevant to the job you’re applying to. Ideally, positions that she can provide references for.
    It’s not a good idea to try to frame the responsibilities of a stay at home mom on a résumé as work. Being a SAHM is not a job in a traditional sense, it’s a stage in life and the role you have in your family. A job in the work force is a service that you render for pay. It is transactional. And as many have pointed out, in job or volunteer position there’s a supervisor that you are accountable to that can provide an objective assessment of your work.
    Being a mom is caring for your kids and loving them, which is not a transactional service. I think it does parenthood a disservice to try to describe it in the same language as paid work or volunteer work for a nonprofit.

  21. DarthVelma*

    #1 – No, parenting does not actually require “training in child development and behavior”. (A whole lot of kids would be better off if it did.) As someone who works in early childhood and had to get an actual education in child development and behavior, I find this incredibly tone deaf, bordering on offensive.

    Frankly, none of what was listed as “required” for that job is actually required for someone to become a parent.

      1. Lilo*

        My Dad’s a developmental pediatrician and his fellowship (after he was already a full pediatrician) for that took three years. He also attends conferences and education on advancements in child developmental medicine.

        I’m a parent myself and yeah, no, I am not an expert in child development at all.

    1. Informal skill is a real thing*

      I mean, it does, it just doesn’t require the level of training needed to do it as effectively as a professional. The attitude that being a parent isn’t a skill leads to the widespread and offensive idea that ECEs shouldn’t be well paid because it’s “just babysitting.” Taking care of kids is hard and requires skill. Parents have varying levels of training and support to learn that skill, and concordantly varying levels of success. I think one of the big issues with the professionnalisation of every form of work is that it devalues informal skill, which is real and valuable.

      Being a home cook and being a chef require different skill levels but they both require you to understand the basic principles. The reason why being a chef belongs on your resume and being a home cook doesn’t isn’t because home cooks have no skill, it’s because it’s a basic expectation that adults in society have that entry level skill, so it’s not worth mentioning.

      1. Colette*

        There’s a difference between child care as a profession and caring for your own child – and there are plenty of parents who have no training and no idea about child development.

        To use your home cook example, some people heat up frozen meals; some make meals from scratch. In the end, everyone gets fed, but those are very different skill levels, and neither belongs on a resume.

        1. KateM*

          Yeah, it isn’t like there haven’t been those really great tips on home economy like making your own coffee or really great recipes handed down from grandmother that go “one bag of cake mix, follow the instructions”. You just can’t assume that others have the same view of what is dispute resolution or cost reduction in a family context.

      2. doreen*

        As someone who has dealt professionally with all sorts of parents – being a good parent or even an adequate parent requires some skill and knowledge but a parent who knows nothing about child development and behavior is a parent nonetheless. Being a home cook requires some skill – but there are people who do not even have that level of skill.

        1. Dinwar*

          The issue with the cook thing is that they are very different skillsets. I’ve done both, and cooking professionally is VERY different. Cooking at home you can take your time, tailor the meal to your tastes, and focus on each thing a lot more. Cooking in a restaurant you’re doing volume work, working on a dozen orders at a time (which means 2-3x that number of individual dishes), and consistency is key. You’re also working as part of a team, each person responsible for individual things.

          Honestly, cooking at home is probably harder. There’s less help and the dishes are more complicated (at least more so than what I cooked, which to be fair was on the low end). That said, putting “Cook” down on a resume when you were a home cook is still wrong–not because it takes less skill, but because it takes DIFFERENT skills.

        2. Informal skill is a real thing*

          I’m not arguing that there aren’t parents out there who have a very low level of skill and as a result aren’t adequately parenting their child. My professional experience is in helping people succeed at their parenting goals to avoid having their children apprehended. That’s how I know that even the most basic “your child was fed today” does actually require a number of skills, including time management, emotional self-regulation, etc. That’s not to say it’s on the same level as people who are very successful parents informally or who care for children professionally. But if your kid is alive at the end of the day, that DOES require skills. Again, they’re just not skills you should put on a resume because we expect everyone to have them, same as I don’t put “wear clean clothes to work every day” on mine.

  22. L.H. Puttgrass*

    Part of the problem with #1 is that it’s not even a very good resume entry. It’s all vaguely worded lofty job duties, not accomplishments. I kind of shudder to think what an accomplishment-based “Stay-at-Home Mom” resume entry would end up looking like—I suspect many of them would be insufferable (e.g., listing things like progeny’s GPAs and jobs and such as accomplishments). But attempting to write a stay-at-home-mom resume entry that’s based on accomplishments rather than “job” duties might highlight why it’s problematic to list it on a resume at all.

    1. Genie*

      Well, I think you could make a case for some decent transferable skills – Possessing demonstrated ability to keep calm in the face of constant loud provocation, Able to coordinate with multiple entities to schedule and reschedule shifting appointments, Communicating civilly and pleasantly with diverse groups of individuals whose only commonality is procreation…(this is tongue in cheek, of course :))

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        Sure, but listing accomplishments is usually better than listing skills.

        And it’s an area where someone could really have fun with this kind of job entry if they wanted to. “Received 2014 ‘World’s Greatest Mom’ Award (photo of testimonial coffee cup available on request.” That sort of thing.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Those aren’t parent-specific, though–ask anyone who has ever worked in customer service–and the dynamic between a parent and child is often significantly different from that between an employee and a customer on a power trip.

  23. KRM*

    LW#3, this is a really common recruiting tactic with big firms, I think. At an old job we had one firm that did this exact thing. They’d call initially and say that “a colleague” had given them our name (they called lots of people on our floor) and they thought we’d be a good match for an opportunity they’re working on. They’d then proceed to keep calling and leaving messages that were all chummy and giving us alternate ways to contact them, because this job was such a great job. This would, no joke, go on for at least 3 months if not longer, with the same person. Never any details of the supposed job, etc. They’re just hoping to get you on the phone and into their system, so they can try to sell any job to you.

    1. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      LW 3 – this is just a tactic. I just got two phone calls and a linked in message from a recruiter who told me I was highly recommended by one of their clients. When I asked who she said they keep their clients names confidential. I told her I wasn’t interested.

      If someone really recommended me because we had actually worked together they would tell me, or be happy to have their name changed.

      It is all smoke and mirrors to make you feel good. But they are telling everyone the same thing. Casting a wide net.

    2. anonymouse*

      I got a call like this after I posted my resume on monster. Mary Something recommended you.
      I went to a Catholic women’s college, so that tracked.
      It was a cattle call interview for a real estate pyramid scheme.
      At 8 in the morning.
      In a borrowed office that was having a luncheon, so there was food there. But not for us.
      They didn’t even spring for donuts.

    3. Autumnheart*

      Yep, it’s a fishing expedition by a recruiter who’s trying to enlarge their pool of candidates they could refer, by telling you that they have a particular job in mind (they don’t) and/or that a colleague of yours recommended you (they didn’t). It’s basically spam and can be safely ignored, unless you are doing an aggressive job search and are willing to give these recruiters a shot, just in case something pans out.

      It IS a dishonest tactic and I, personally, don’t think much of recruiters who engage in it. There are plenty of recruiters new to the field who will be more straightforward, and not try to play bait-and-switch games to get you to contact them. No need to indulge the ones who engage in those shady tactics.

    4. Reluctant Job Hunter*

      OP#3 here. Thanks, everyone. I guess I’ve been lucky that recruiters had never tried this annoying tactic on me before. It really was the strangest conversation, and she came off terribly – unless she happened to call me with my dream job (and managed to be convincing about it), I’ve effectively blacklisted her in my mind.

      I’m currently being “mobbed” out of my current job, which is a big part of what set my spidey senses tingling. I can tell they want me out, and there’s no easy way to make it happen since I’m a high performer with a stellar reputation. I could easily see my grandboss doing something like this to gauge if I was going to leave on my own soon vs. them having to push harder. I’m honestly relieved people aren’t laughing at my question for being crazy or paranoid.

  24. Fed for 25 years*

    LW 2 – Assuming you work for the Federal government it is common for people to be in acting supervisory roles without a bonus or extra pay mostly because the government doesn’t give bonuses aside perhaps from performance awards. There are rules about when you would be owed extra pay that depend on how long you were acting in the higher-level role. What I recommend is checking the OPM regulations for when a person in an acting higher graded position should receive more pay (usually after a certain number of days) and also advocating when your annual review happens for a Quality Step Increase (QSI) which would move you to the next step of your grade right away.

    1. doreen*

      I worked for a state government rather than the Federal government and you would never get extra pay or a bonus unless you actually could make a case that you were doing out-of-title work and win a grievance based on that. But there were two problems with that in my agency. One was that the person “filling in” wasn’t typically performing all the functions of the higher level role – for example, ” Regional director” was a relatively common position for someone to have as “acting” but the people “acting” did not have the authority to approve anything other than timesheets and vacations. They were mostly a conduit for information between the first level managers and the assistant commisioners. And the second was that if you somehow won a grievance, you would never be promoted again as “acting” was reserved for positions outside the civil service rules.

  25. Lightning McQueen*

    For 1, right or wrong putting that on your resume is not going to have the reaction they would hope for. There is a good chance that the person reading the resume is a working parent and will have negative thoughts to it.

    1. PsychNurse*

      I agree that’s a concern. When I was re-entering the workforce after being a SAHM, I remember going for an interview for a job that could have been either full or part time. The interviewer (a woman about my age) asked why I was only seeking PT work. I said something about it works out best for my family because I am in charge of XYZ stuff for my husband and kids– and even as I spoke, I was kicking myself, because I realized that she likely had children too and was handling those same tasks while working full-time!

  26. TW1968*

    LW2: May be too late now, may not be…but can you tell your grandboss you are overwhelmed and can’t keep up with your normal duties AND your boss’s duties? Let it fail. Why aren’t you doing your boss’s job now? Not getting paid for it and don’t have the title.

  27. LizB*

    #1: Volunteer position requiring training in child development and behavior

    I mean, on top of all the other reasons not do this, this statement is just false. Being a parent doesn’t “require training” the way a professional position might. You don’t need to spend any time in a classroom to do it. Sure, you’re going to learn a ton on the “job”, but that’s very much not the same thing.

    1. PsychNurse*

      Yes! It’s like when people put that they are in charge of “accounting” for their family. You may be amazing at running your family’s budget, but that is not the same as being an accountant. Or “kitchen management” for your family is not the same as being trained in restaurant work.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, running a small business, including keeping the books, is actually better for demonstrating basic accounting proficiency. It’s different from household accounting.

  28. The Happy Graduate*

    Even though bonuses can’t be given, a lot of government agencies will instead allow unofficial extra days off for situations like this. One of those, “take the next few Fridays off on us” situations. It’s a good way to make employees feel appreciated when monetary compensation just isn’t an option whatsoever.

  29. High Score!*

    OP3 I would find this recruiter interaction rather flakey. Many recruiters do this bc they are gathering resumes. I try not to work with recruiters at all. Before working with a recruiter or answering their questions,
    1 – read some independent online reviews of their company.
    2 – ask them your questions first.
    3 – have them describe the job they are looking to fill.
    4- If you have already applied at a similar job, say I’ve already applied at Company X, is that who you are recruiting for? You don’t want your resume submitted multiple times or it’ll get thrown out.
    5 – do not put your full resume online or give it to recruiters who you have not researched or don’t feel comfortable with.

    1. Reluctant Job Hunter*

      Thanks! I also replied above. I’m also wary of recruiters because some employers set up their contracts so that whoever brings them the successful/hired candidate first gets the commission, so it creates some really gross incentives. When I was hiring a few years ago, I missed out on some great candidates because we had one “internal” and one “recruiter” position open, and we couldn’t move a “recruiter” candidate to the “internal” bucket, no matter how good. I worry about missing out on a great job due to these types of contracts.

  30. A Pound of Obscure*

    #5. Make your office look more occupied by, oh I don’t know, occupying it? Yes, I know you will be in meetings a lot of the time and won’t actually be at your desk. I get it. Your employer’s policy seems toothless and silly. Their policy should be to either institute a workable WFH policy that is applied fairly for everyone, or to require everyone to work in the office with real consequences if you don’t (with appropriate exceptions for those who have an ADA reason to WFH or what have you). People who ignore their employers’ current policies will find out the hard way that (a) policies change and (b) the balance of power will shift back to employers eventually. Enjoy your indifference to workplace policies while you can; it won’t last.
    Signed, someone who returned to the office in January 2021 and somehow lived through it /snark

    1. Anonononononononymous*

      You know, there are plenty of people who did return to the office back in 2021 and didn’t live through it. So maybe don’t with the snark.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        This. Google offices are superspreader locations. Apple employees are refusing the RTO rather loudly.

        Covid. Is. NOT. Over! It’s just being swept under the rug by upper management who don’t want to take the responsibility for policies that are killing and disabling workers.

    2. Lily Potter*

      I wouldn’t have phrased my answer quite this way but I understand the sentiment. I see this topic as silly. No one with half a brain is going to REALLY believe all this “scarecrowing” means live humans are in the building. One person leaving a sweater and a purse at a desk for an afternoon while they do a personal errand is believable. An entire department trying to do this on a continual basis isn’t going to work. The group needs to get some butts back into seats or risk bring replaced. More realistically, they could “fool” the office snoops by regularly having everyone in the office halftime and on varying/overlapping schedules.

    3. Well...*

      Why do you say the balance of power will necessarily shift back to employers? In a fair society, the exchange of labor for money wouldn’t have a power imbalance. You seem to be hoping our society gets less fair over time. I mean, it likely will, but you’re looking forward to it like a teacher’s pet looks forward to summer ending so all the other kids will be forced to not have fun at the pool anymore.

      Also bragging about not dying during a pandemic? Weird flex.

    4. A More Brilliant Orange*

      “or to require everyone to work in the office with real consequences if you don’t”

      And there’s the rub.

      I’m hearing and reading plenty of stories of employees ignoring orders to go back to the office. I’m seeing it at my employer. Why? Because the employees will simply find another job rather than go back.

      “…the balance of power will shift back to employers eventually.”

      No it won’t, and here’s why. Employers are shifting en masse to WFH. It’s cheaper for the employers and it makes it easier to find employees–in particular quality employees.

      This is simply another version of Amazon/online-sales disrupting the brick-and-mortar business model. Those businesses that adapted survived. Those that didn’t didn’t.

      The economy may shift to an employers market, but those businesses that eschew WFH will still be at the bottom of the list when potential employees are deciding where to apply. They will still have problems attracting and keeping employees.

      Even in a red hot sellers housing market, the run down homes in bad neighborhoods sell last. And the people who buy them are not doctors or lawyers.

      If you want your company to be the business equivalent of a run down house in a bad neighborhood, then by all means ban WFH; force everyone back into the office.

      “Signed, someone who returned to the office in January 2021 and somehow lived through it /snark”

      I understand your attitude. But consider the attitude of the employee who is forced back into the office who (1) knows their job could be done from home and (2) sees employees of other companies working from home. Do you think they are going to have a good attitude? Do you think they are going to be hung ho to bust their tail for the company? No, they are more likely to end up a disgruntled employee.

      1. Dinwar*

        I disagree with pretty much everything you say here.

        I think the situation is going to be much more nuanced in the future. Some companies will prefer working from the office, and will attract people who prefer working in that environment (we DO exist, and it’s really annoying to be assumed out of existence). Some will prefer allowing employees to subsidize corporate overhead and will attract people who prefer WFH. And a lot of industries are going to figure out the mid- to long-term costs and benefits of both and go to hybrid situations–obviously 100% WFH and 100% butts-in-seats are end-members of a very long continuum. (As an aside, it’s not even that simple–I’m a remote worker, but have an office at my remote location, so I’m both.)

        My work CAN, largely, be done from home. Other people in my company do it–there are people who were 90% WFH before the pandemic. I hate it, and there are a lot of people in the office who agree with me. If my job was 100% WFH I’d probably be finding a new one, and I’ve spent a bit of political capital to avoid it, so this isn’t hypothetical for me. That doesn’t mean anyone else should have my preferences, though.

        The idea that in-office culture indicates a bottom-of-the-barrel company is projection, not fact. Some industries do actually need people physically there, even in the office; technology cannot replicate in-person interactions. And offices do offer some advantages that homes don’t. Obviously individual preference is going to determine if you would rather work there or not, but it’s simply, factually wrong to say categorically that they’re inherently worse.

        If we approach this rationally, rather than reactively and from a sense of “This is what I’m doing now so it’s what I’m comfortable with”, I think we’ll find that there’s room for all of us to find companies that work the way we like to work. This will become a part of corporate culture, like any other–a significant one, sure, but a datum under that heading none the less. Rational managers will work with employees to ensure that the employee preferences are balanced against company needs (which includes culture), and compromises are likely to be made by all parties.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        But consider the attitude of the employee who is forced back into the office who (1) knows their job could be done from home and (2) sees employees of other companies working from home. Do you think they are going to have a good attitude? Do you think they are going to be hung ho to bust their tail for the company? No, they are more likely to end up a disgruntled employee.

        Yep. Also, disgruntled, unhappy employees will just start looking for fully remote positions. Companies that are hybrid or 100% in-office have a harder time recruiting and retaining employees as it is.

  31. toolittletoolate*

    the only thing an employer might want to know about a significant work gap is that it was voluntary and that you weren’t seeking employment at that time. I’ve seen resumes do a one-liner like
    2005-2016 Stay at home parent.
    2005-2016 Caregiver for family member

    And that has been helpful to me as a hiring manager. Others might see that differently, but I have appreciated knowing that someone wasn’t in jail, or wasn’t so undesirable they couldn’t get a job for 10 years. I could see someone using that information as a way to weed people out, but I’ve seen other hiring managers have some information that helps them understand why what they see as a good candidate was out of the workforce for so long.

  32. tiredworkingmom*

    #1 is an interesting response–I have seen a campaign on LinkedIn from parenting networking site HEYMAMA called “add mother to the resume,” where moms are listing themselves as their formal job title and then “mother.” I would actually love to see more parents being transparent and bringing their whole selves to work.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      No. Being a parent shouldn’t be a factor in resumes/hiring (because if it becomes normal to put it on resumes, it will inevitably become a factor in hiring). It’s just . . . if you have kids (pets, whatever) actually taking care of them should be a baseline life process–that’s why you get arrested if you don’t. It’s not a professional accomplishment. It’s also inviting judgment from prospective employers, for better or for worse: You don’t want them judging your parenting choices, and if they view parenthood favorably it’s unfair to people who don’t/can’t have families.

      1. Well...*

        I’d like to push back a little on parenting being a baseline life process. It’s time consuming, exhausting, and the labor around it should be valued more highly. That’s true for parents who work (who are basically working two jobs, one unpaid) and SAHPs. I’m terrified of the day I become a parent and basically will have to work another job on top of the job that already drains the hell out of me. It’s a huge problem.

        It’s also a problem that doesn’t fit neatly into our capitalist system. There are lots of reasons parenting shouldn’t be considered a professional accomplishment, as was addressed by Allison and the commentariat. That doesn’t mean parenting should be dismissed as unimportant labor.

        1. Eyes Kiwami*

          I don’t get why we need to force parenting and caregiving into our capitalist framework of what constitutes labor. Just because you get paid or do it outside the home doesn’t make it more valuable than unpaid work inside the home. Why do we have to equate parenting/life upkeep tasks to an office job in order to value it?

          A resume is a persuasive document to try and obtain paid external work. It’s not a list of everything that you have done that is valuable.

          1. Well...*

            What I mean is: it’s a problem that needs to be solved, and our capitalist system of reward for labor does not present a solution.

            I’m not forcing the solution into a capitalist framework, I’m saying the framework isn’t useful for this problem.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Parent networking sites probably aren’t going to give you the most appropriate work advice, which is the main charge of this blog.

      There’s nothing wrong with being transparent that you have a family or trying to push back on workplace discrimination against mothers. This is not that.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Caveat: “there’s nothing wrong with…” but you should also be aware you’re opening yourself up to discrimination, including unconscious bias. That’s personal calculus but typically it’s best to be as focused on your professional skills as possible when interviewing.

  33. Wry*

    There are loads of things obviously wrong with putting SAHP on your resume and LinkedIn profile as though it were a job, but what struck me as particularly bad in this example was this part:

    “Volunteer position requiring training in child development and behavior. Job required strong skills in time management, dispute resolution, communication, accounting, procurement, and cost reduction.”

    Because….the “job” did not *require* any of those things. Nobody hired the SAHP for this “position,” and nobody ensured that they had those skills and experience before being allowed to raise their kids. On a very basic level, it’s a complete misuse of resume language. For that reason, IMO, it only draws further attention to the ways in which being a SAHP is not a job. Like Alison said, being a SAHP is hard work, most people would agree with that. But looking at this particular description only makes me think, “Well, actually, parenting doesn’t require training in childhood development and behavior….that’s just a lie.”

    1. anonymouse*

      That is indeed true.
      And at a lesser level, the qualifications are naive and kind of precious. “requires time management skills.”
      OK, it does. Do you have those skills?
      Unless you were running the neighborhood carpool for multiple years, coordinating drivers, kids and cars, you really have no evidence that you have those skills.

    2. Joielle*

      Yeah, that stuck out to me too. Especially “procurement” – what even is that in this context? Buying stuff for your kids? That’s… not a thing that makes any sense on a resume. Just rubs me the wrong way to suggest (even in a jokey way) that the fact that you’ve parented children makes you qualified for like 5 separate unrelated jobs.

  34. definitelyanon*

    Related question to #1. I am a licensed foster parent currently applying for jobs. If the job is related to serving a similar population, is it worth it to mention that in the cover letter? Still inappropriate? I ask, because we do actually have training we have to do every year related to serving children in foster care and working with the system does give me knowledge of different laws, agencies, etc.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Alison is way more qualified to answer this question as a foster parent herself, but in my opinion I think it depends on the job you’re applying for – so yes, if it’s serving a similar population I think you can mention it. But I’d be specific about how that strengthens your candidacy and skills and not focus too much on the fostering itself.

    2. LizB*

      I’ve worked in services for youth in foster care, and if you were applying for my team, I’d definitely want to know about this experience. Your cover letter would be a great place to mention it. I’d think you could also mention it if you have a section on your resume for skills or certifications. If you were applying for jobs not in youth services it’s probably not worth mentioning, but for jobs where knowledge of the system is useful? Absolutely.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Is there one (or perhaps two) explicit/tangible/measurable thing(s)?
      I’m thinking, when I went to read to my SIL’s kindergartners, I had to get the 33 whatever certification. But that is just writing a check for a background check. Everyone involved with kids has that.
      If you earned XYZ certification, or worked with ABC department on/with something, like an ABC dept/foster parent coalition, or mentor other foster parents.
      Something like that.

  35. Troublemaker*

    Three letters about LinkedIn listings! I want to remind folks, as a PSA and mental-health suggestion, that you can *delete* your LinkedIn profile. You can *close* your LinkedIn account. Just like with Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube, it is okay to leave LinkedIn.

    I did this years ago. You can do it too! You will get fewer questionable recruiters, you’re less likely to suffer identity theft, and your leads will improve in quality.

  36. Sunflower*

    #1, yeah, bad idea to put on a resume. We all may not be married with children, but we all (including the interviewer) probably clean, cook, budget, etc. for our own private homes. That doesn’t mean we should put that on our resumes unless we are professional housekeepers who file tax forms for that job.

  37. Critical Rolls*

    Having read only some of the comments thus far, I’d give the person from #1 some grace here. This wasn’t on an *actual* resume, it was on LinkedIn. And to me, it clearly reads as a joke, winking at how we translate things into resume-ese. I get that there are awful, entitled parents who are terrible to work with, but a little humor on a networking website is hardly conclusive proof that this person is one of them.

    1. PsychNurse*

      No I agree- on LinkedIn, it’s fine! They’re trying to be silly and cutesy. Fine. The concern was that sometimes people do put this sort of thing on a real resume!

      People are sensitized to it (that’s why you’re seeing such vehemence here) because there is a TON of stuff like it online in articles, blogs, etc. You’ll see articles that say “SAHPs are doing $90,000 worth of work each year!” and it’ll be broken down into things like “private chef for three meals a day,” even though everyone has to eat, whether they work outside the home or not. So I think the commentariat is poised to be offended by this and people are responding to that whole collection of posts.

      1. Feral Humanist*

        And the reason for that is that the work is TOTALLY devalued by society, including, apparently, the commentariat on AAM! I think valuing unpaid carework AS WORK (which falls mostly on women, btw) is unbelievably important, and I am so incredibly disappointed in the amount of judgment being passed on it. I don’t know that this is the best way to handle it, but I do know that the attitudes being displayed toward it here today are part of why those articles are being written.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          No one is saying it isn’t work or that it isn’t important, and I see very little judgement being passed in these comments. People are actually giving solid advice here. Just because it’s not what you want to hear doesn’t change that fact.

        2. Dinwar*

          I haven’t seen anyone say that parenting isn’t work. What I’ve seen is people saying that it’s not appropriate to put on a resume, for specific reasons. These are totally different concepts, and the latter isn’t limited to parenting, nor does it imply in any way that parenting isn’t work.

        3. Colette*

          Of course that’s work! But it doesn’t belong on a resume, any more than I would put accounting on my resume because I manage my own budget.

          A resume is not a list of everything of value that you do; it’s about your professional experience, and caring for your own family members is not professional – it’s personal.

          1. Dr. Hyphem*

            There are two jobs I had, that no one would debate whether they were actual jobs, that I leave off my resume because after going back to school to get my PhD, most of the skills associated with the jobs are not relevant to the work I do now and among the skills that are relevant, they are more than sufficiently represented on my resume with the other jobs I have had. Like, not everything belongs on a resume.

        4. penny dreadful analyzer*

          There isn’t really a consensus on what terms should be used to differentiate “expending effort to engage in a productive activity” and “selling your effort to engage in a productive activity to someone else, generally in exchange for wages, where your effort is now a commodity on the labor market”–work, labor, job, employment–but it really seems like we should establish one, otherwise we just get this constant talking past each other where it’s impossible to point out that work not sold to an employer as a commodity on the labor market is, in fact, not being sold to an employer as a commodity on the labor market without the person hearing something you didn’t say about how it isn’t difficult or important–with very good reason, but nonetheless, something you didn’t say.

          Not a single person in this comments section has said that being a stay-at-home parent isn’t productive. What they have done is tried to look for ways to say that it isn’t commodified and run up against the fact that we also use all the most readily available words for that to mean “doing effortful and/or productive things.”

          The fact that we as a capitalist society tend to think that only work that has been commodified is important is a pretty big problem, but I don’t think we fix it by insisting that work that isn’t a commodity somehow is a commodity. All this does is rob us of our ability to discuss labor-as-a-commodity with any nuance or even sense.

          Yes, I know I sound like a big weird Marxist talking about commodified labor. It’s the only thing I could think of that I could reasonably expect people wouldn’t automatically translate into “good” or “real.”

          1. Dinwar*

            I think “marketable” is the distinction. Not all skills are marketable in every market. As I said in one comment, I was a cook for a while. Now I’m a project manager in environmental remediation. Being a cook was harder in a lot of ways–it’s MUCH less likely that I’ll kill someone tomorrow, for example (people DRASTICALLY under-appreciate the hazards involved in food preparation!!)–but it would make zero sense to put that on a resume. It’s not that the skills are without value, it’s just that they aren’t marketable in the marketplace where I’m selling my time/experience/skills.

            It’s not a matter of a skillset being valued or not. It’s a matter of context. Stay at home parents develop a certain skillset which, outside of a limited set of situations, simply isn’t worth paying for in many markets. Those skillsets won’t make you a better accountant or estimator, or better at data entry or debugging a program, or at operating an excavator or welding magnesium.

            Should it be given more consideration? I have no answer to that. I can say that I don’t value those skills in my line of work. I know what they are, and they simply aren’t applicable. And as a baseline, a priori, veil-of-ignorance sort of general guideline, I think we can assume that hiring managers generally know what skills are required to do the jobs they’re hiring for.

  38. I watered your plants while you had covid*

    #1 seems like an invitation for an employer to discriminate on the basis of being a parent to me. I was pandemic job hunting and I can tell you that none of the interviews where I didn’t have someone to supervise my child resulted in call backs. Maybe for other reasons, but still I have to imagine that a child in the room running out of snacks didn’t help.

    1. Lilo*

      I once got a resume that listed the applicant’s age on it which I found bizarre. Someone more experienced clued me in that he was fishing to try to sue us for age discrimination (his writing sample was riddled with errors, though which we carefully documented).

  39. My 2 cents*

    LW #4 – If you want to include it so your gap doesn’t look so long, I’d just add a bullet you were laid off. In fact, I don’t think it hurts for anyone to put this out there if there were mass layoffs at their company.

    1. LW #4 :)*

      Thanks! I am pretty transparent about it with anyone who has asked in person, but I got a lot of people in my network congratulating me when I added the job to my profile (it’s a company many folks are familiar with), and I feel a little awkward that they may notice it’s gone. Truth be told, I wish I’d removed it sooner, since I think the turnaround was so short it’s pretty clear the layoff wasn’t performance related.

  40. Just Your Everyday Crone*

    I have a couple comments for LW2. First, if you’re a fed, the extra duties may be used to get a quality step increase.
    About the promotion, I’d say this–technical know-how is usually not enough to get promoted. If you’re thinking that you know the program and the processes really well, and that should get you promoted, I’d suggest talking to your higher-ups about what they look for in those leveled-up positions. A lot of times, the higher you go, the less technical the job is and the more it needs things like seeing the big picture and ability to work with others.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yep. Plus, training your new manager in the technical aspects of the job is a great way to improve those soft skills.

  41. Salamander*

    Yup. Also, if there’s a visible white board, change up what’s on it every so often. Make sure that calendars are showing the proper month. And maybe play a radio at low volume when someone’s around.

    On a funny note…I used to take the bus past an old warehouse that had a mannequin in the window, dressed in a shirt and tie with a visor. The place was empty, but it was intended to look occupied. I saw it every day and quickly caught on. Every so often, they would move him around. Eventually, he was joined by a female mannequin and he was posed dancing for her. The building was eventually sold and torn down, but I still think of it fondly.

    1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

      I’m kind of glad this ended up top level. Reading about the mannequins was charming.

  42. RedinSC*

    Not an idea for #5, but we’ve got the office busy bodies too. My team has some remote time, but if someone is sick and working from home people start to whine to HR, why is Red’s team never there?

    So, addressing the larger problem is what my office needs to do and I would love some ideas on how to go about that? How do you address “fairness” in a work place where some people’s jobs honestly cannot be done remotely, so it’s not “fair” that others get to work from home?

    1. RL*

      I manage facility operations folks (groundskeepers, custodians, maintenance techs, etc.) who obviously need to be on site for the lion’s share (if not all of) their work. At some points, different employee groups were hearing those complaints from my team around “fairness”

      My team falls within an administrative area that also covers accounts payable, purchasing, budget, etc. At our point, the division head wanted to ban work from home for anyone in his administrative area because of these concerns. I had a candid conversation with him to push back. First, all it did was make people pissed off at my team, which makes our lives harder. Second, if the lady in AP can effectively do her job remotely and we refuse because it’s not fair to the custodians, we as an institution may lose her to a place that will let her work remotely. No place let’s you be a remote custodian so we’re not losing that person over work from home.

      I think as long as the decisions are truly being made with respect to the job and consistent across similar jobs it is fair even if some jobs prohibit it. I’d recommend talking with the leadership in some areas where the jobs can’t be done remotely to see what they recommend. My approach was to advocate for some sort of gesture/incentive/perk of being on site (hasn’t fully happened outside of donuts once a month) and to provide as much schedule flexibility as possible for the folks who work on campus. It’s gone a long way towards reducing the fairness concerns.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      I guess I fail to see why enabling those who can work remotely to do so and thus avoid Covid is “unfair”. I would think that the fewer people who had to come in would mean the fewer infection vectors there were in the workplace. WFH is the ultimate in social distancing, after all. Avoiding possibly infecting those whose jobs had to be done on-site seems pretty fair to me.

  43. Chilly Delta Blues*

    Don’t have all the chairs perfectly under the desks. Have some pushed out or turned so it looks like you just got up to go to a meeting and will be back soon. Strategic use of coats or jackets left in cubes and pens or scrap paper/water bottle left on desks helps too. Basically keep things just a tad messy/unorganized. (Disclosure this is all how I kept my study space reserved in the library during grad school finals week when I had to run to class) Holidays decorations are a great idea too.

  44. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    I had a resume come across with ’18 years of stay at home parenting,’ with very very similar descriptions listed. I value the time and energy it takes to be a stay home parent – my mom was one the whole time I grew up. Full time 24/7 or so it seemed. And, while I could see all the things the applicant did as similar, as deep as I looked there was nothing I could find that was transferable. And I really hoped there would be. I would have been ok with the explanation in the gap, but I just couldn’t find the mechanics of what the job we were hiring for required in what the applicant listed. In my mom’s case ‘say you’re sorry’ was the conflict resolution she managed (and managed well I might add), but try that in front of a board of trustees. Quite frankly I wonder if that would work sometime…

  45. All Het Up About It*

    LW#2 – I was the Pam to someone else’s you a couple of years ago. They let their bitterness and resentment 100% cloud their judgement in how they approached me and their work when I came on. It did not go well. They ended up quitting before I could have “The TALK” with them. (I would have had it earlier, but my own boss really got in the way there and handled things in a way that I don’t actually think helped.) Moving on might have been the best choice for their mental health as they could not get past being passed over, even though there were absolutely reasons for it.

    Their attitude in their last three months at the company really colored how people see them. Prior to that many people thought they were a great worker, a real team player and a great employee. How they handled not getting a promotion changed that for many people. If you want to throw away good will and good references, then absolutely refuse to train your new manager. But even if you aren’t out of a job, that sort of attitude is going to have a negative effect on your work life.

    Also – I’m sorry you didn’t get that promotion! Can you self reflect and see if some of your bitterness and resentment is coming from doing the work without any true recognition or reward? Because that also does truly suck. And I agree that you should ask if anything can be done. But you need to think also what do you really want. Do you like the agency you are at? Do you want to stay there long term? Would you consider the second position that is complimentary to Pam if it is offered to you in the future? If any of those are true, you should look at the time spent training Pam as a time to build report, and show yourself as a competent professional. You want a positive relationship with your manager, so that they can go to bat for you for raises, that one-time bonus (unlikely in gov work, right?), and a new position or promotion.

    And if you do find that it is best for you to move on, that’s fine too! But doing so with grace is going to be a much better look for you. You don’t want to burn, or at least singe bridges behind you. Don’t let the feelings you have right now (that you are totally entitled to have!) negatively influence your future.

  46. Chidi has a stomach ache*

    Everytime SAHPing comes up, I really feel for people (and especially women) who are trying to return to the workplace after being a SAHP, especially if they didn’t have a lot of working experience before they had kids. My mother stayed at home with us for about 15 years, and it was really hard for her to transition back into the workplace. But also — my mother wasn’t a great SAHP, either? She was actually really unhappy being at home with us, which made our childhood difficult in ways I didn’t come to understand until I was an adult in therapy. This is precisely the issue that Allison raises: there are no clear metrics or paths of evaluation for parenting!

    A lot of my dissertation research was on care work and care workers, and how it’s been excluded from the economic sphere. It’s so clear that care work like SAHPing is deeply overlooked and devalued, and you can draw a direct line between that and why other forms of care work (daycare workers, healthcare assistants, teachers, etc) are so underpaid and also undervalued. We need much better on and off-ramps for people that need to step back from work for caretaking duties (whether kids, or aging parents, or ill spouses) without experiencing career penalties.

  47. Rigamaroll*

    I’ve been in several Facebook groups where individuals of my profession “gather” and discuss tips. I’ve seen several people give advice (and nearly that exact verbiage) as OP #1 … and as a former hiring manager it makes me CRINGE!! I almost always comment and say “please do not ever do this!”

  48. GardenZen*

    My old job did this, the CEO required everyone to come into the office 2-3 days a week. Our VP had the same smoke and mirrors approach, let’s all stagger in one day a week, give the appearance of being our department showing up regularly. She did this because the CEO had already refused to give on this issue and she knew that making us come in regularly would lead to a mass exodus. We were already extremely over worked and underpaid. It worked for a few months, but once other departments complained, everyone had to come in more. Within 3 months, 75% of the department left, several without jobs they were so miserable. To rebuild they had to raise salaries and offer 100% remote to attract applicants, and increase the headcount. Six months later they’re still no where near the level of productivity the original team was, because our field is complicated with a lot of big personalities that you have to learn how to manage. The CEO is frustrated and his solution to lower productivity, despite agreeing to remote work for new hires, is everyone has to be back in the office 4 days a week. Including the people who were hired from out of state.

    Some people never learn.

  49. Dr. Hyphem*

    If we truly want to destigmatize resume gaps, we should not talk about being a SAHP in the language of employment (nb, I make the distinction between employment and work), because that won’t truly be beneficial. In truth, if we want to destigmatize resume gaps, it’s really on employers to not care about gaps. Because there are reasons for gaps that can’t be put on a resume (extended illness/surgical recovery, mental health crisis, etc), even in just a line in the same way that someone could put a single line for stay at home parenting. Like, I am not dismissing the struggles that SAHPs may have entering the workforce, but I feel like they do have the most socially acceptable reason for a resume gap compared to recovering from illness, mental health, etc.

    Honestly, the only reason to care about a resume gap is if it is a job that requires some sort of up-to-date licensure. Like, maybe there might be concern about an industry changing dramatically if someone has been out of the field awhile, but I feel like the process of onboarding to a particular company’s ways of working would probably cover part of the outage, and people do change industries, so even that shouldn’t be a barrier as long as the person is willing to learn the way the industry operates now.

    1. Joielle*

      Yeah, I think the gap in time is the most important thing, not what that time was spent doing. If I was looking at the resume of a person who had been a stay at home parent for more than a few years, I’d hope to see some kind of volunteer work or professional development to show that they kept their skills and knowledge up to date. But that’s the same for anyone who’s been out of a specific field for a while – if I was hiring for an employment attorney but the person’s employment law experience was 10 years ago, I’d want to know if they’ve done anything to keep current in the field, because laws change all the time. And that’s the same whether the intervening 10 years was spent caring for kids or working in nonprofit fundraising or running a dog grooming business.

  50. I Feel Seen, #2*

    OP #2 – I get you. I get you because I was in your situation earlier this year. Alison and the commentariat are right; not being willing to assist your new boss will only hurt you in the long run.

    BUT your anger and bitterness is definitely justified, because you didn’t have any training (so typical everywhere, but especially government, and I so understand the tears), you worked your cheeks off, and you were passed over and now expected to train this new person when you received no training at all. How can anyone do this with a smile when no one invested in you?

    In my situation it wasn’t just me training the new boss on how things run in the program (which was fine and I didn’t have an issue with that), but I also found myself training the new boss on how to do her job, because she had no previous management experience. She would call me almost daily with personnel issues saying “what do I do?” I was expected to train all the folks and figure stuff out with no direction, yet if anything went sideways, it was on me to fix things because she was useless.

    It was infuriating, and I transferred to another agency that is much better. If any of this resonates, then my advice would be to channel that anger and bitterness into going to another team or agency. If they don’t invest in their employees, then don’t invest in them.

  51. Unchurched Heathen*

    OP#2 struck a nerve.
    First re-examine if you were truly doing the job of the supervisor or keeping the seat warm until they arrived.
    I came into a position that was vacant for a significant amount of time and the person who was “stepping up” assumed the promotion was theirs until it wasn’t.
    I was unaware of this as I blithely asked for help on how to do the payroll (as in what day does it go to finance?)
    Or how do I ship these supplies for a special event?
    Or what is the procedure when x happens?
    She asked for a promotion in grade my second week on the job.
    I said I would investigate but most probably would consider in 6 months after I got my sea legs.
    Things went down hill from there and in 6 months she was on a PIP.
    After she was let go a year later, I had access to her emails for a week to follow up on departmental tasks.
    She could have written your posting including “the nerve of them to expect me to train her!”
    I had twenty years experience and Masters degree.
    Her experience was 6 years within the department.

    Either work to create a team or find somewhere else to work.

  52. Former Employee*

    All I could think of for Stay At Home Mom is how would she like it if a prospective employer took it seriously and asked her to bring in her financial information to see how well she ran the household and started asking her questions about her kids grades and other aspects of how the family was doing overall under her management. Suppose her family was in debt and one of her kids had been suspended from school?

  53. AmericanExpat*

    These comments are very…. American maybe? related to LW1. I scrolled through a lot of my connections on LI and actually quite a few people have something like this (mostly not Americans, so having actual parental leave probably plays into it). The part I don’t like is trying to dress it up like employment – no need to do that. Parenting is a worthwhile calling on its own. However perhaps commenters should stop and consider WHY someone feels they have to make it out as if it were just as valuable experience as a job (namely, because of the undervaluing of women’s work, the idea that we’re all just cogs in the capitalist wheel, etc etc).

    None of this would be necessary if it were normal everywhere to not be working like all the time.

  54. Yellow+Flotsam*

    LW1 do not list your personal life as a job on your resume unless in the highly unlikely case it is super relevant. You run the risk of either coming off like you are mocking people, and/or have no idea that the skills are not relevant (they often aren’t).

    I do think it acceptable to list as a single line to explain an employment gap (2017-2022 SAHP) – but don’t list out duties or achievements.

  55. Domestic Engineer turned CS Manager*

    I have a slightly different take on #1

    I listed myself as a “Domestic Engineer” with a quick blurb that described the time as an operations manager/facilities manager role on LinkedIn during the time I was a SAHP. The creative way I spun it was what got my foot in the door for the first contract gig after my 3 year gap, and what set me apart and got me an interview for the full time job I’ve had for the last 2 years.

    I get that your mileage may vary depending on your work history and the role you’re looking for. My background was in operations and customer support.

    On my resume I list the SAHP time as an employment gap and the blurb notes I took time off to take care of my family.

  56. Curmudgeon in California*

    A side comment on #5 and WFH.

    A lot of tech companies found that they had been spending a lot of money on their office space, especially in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. That’s the true reason that most of them went to open plan offices – it’s not about “openness” or “collaboration”, it’s about real estate spend.

    As the pandemic subsides to an endemic constant, there are two directions that companies (especially growing companies) can go:
    1) Sunk cost fallacy on existing real estate, where they have to have people in the office to justify their real estate spend and tax breaks,
    2) Jettison most of the real estate spending, especially avoiding new spend for expansion, and standardize on remote first, with only a token amount spent on maintaining a headquarters/conference facility.

    Option two makes the most sense for a growing company. They don’t have to sink a lot of money into real estate spending before hiring new people. Their office infrastructure becomes simpler as they no longer have to keep adding desks and chairs plus wired and wireless access for an ever increasing number of employees. They can have just one or two small data centers with file storage, VM service, and a VPN or three.

    The build-out for an office can be hundreds of thousands of dollars in permits, construction costs and network equipment, all of which has to be spent before the first employee moves in. Plus, they still have to buy a workstation for each employee, whether desktop, laptop or thin client plus basic peripherals. Remote first means that 95% of that real estate and building spend can just not happen.

    A lot of large companies have gotten stuck in the sunk cost fallacy, and that’s why places like Google and Apple are trying to force their people back into open plans. They’ve either drunk too much of their “collaboration” Koolaid, or they have to somehow justify their square footage of built-out open plan to their directors. IMO, if they were smart they would just let their huge office leases lapse as they transition most of their workforce to remote.

    Yes, there are people for whom working in the office works better, for various reasons. They can still do so in a remote-first environment. I would argue that only having in the office people who want to work in an office would be better for morale for both remote and in-office people, because the company was accommodating them in the location where they did their best work.

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