my mom tells me to go to work sick, never take time off, and fear being fired every day

A reader writes:

My mom once told me that what she does, and what I should do, is “go into work every single day convinced they are going to fire you if you make a mistake.”

Also, a few years ago my mom had so much PTO accrued that HR told her that she legally had to take time off or cash in some PTO because she had worked too many hours. We went on a 10-day Barcelona vacation with her cashed-in PTO.

Today, I have strep throat and a fever of 101 and my mom is worried about me missing work and thinks I should go in.

I’ve had to work hard to reprogram myself with more healthy work/life expectations. I think boomer parents can instill some very unhealthy values in their kids surrounding work.

Do not listen to your mom.


Somewhere along the way, you mom picked up incredibly toxic and dysfunctional beliefs about work. Who knows where — it could have come from her own parents, or from some particularly horrible employers, or from financial insecurity that led to terror that even normal behavior could cost her a job and jeopardize her well-being.

But what she’s telling you is awful advice:

* Most employers do not want you coming in with strep throat and a fever and infecting the rest of your team! (There are some exceptions to that, but those exceptions are terrible employers that you don’t want to work for.)

* No decent manager — no even halfway decent manager — wants you fearing that you’ll be fired if you make a single mistake. (To the contrary, in many cases good managers want you to feel safe enough to experiment and take reasonable risks.) Decent managers know that fearful employees are less creative, less engaged, and less candid. Decent managers know they’ll lose good employees if they govern by fear.

* Vacation time is a benefit that you’ve earned, just like wages or health insurance. It’s true that some employers make it harder than others to take all your PTO, but that’s a problem to be solved with that employer — it makes no sense to proactively decide not to use any PTO just in case you’re at a crappy employer that makes it tough to do, since most don’t. (And even at those crappy employers that make it tough to do, there are people who just go ahead and take time off and the employer deals with it.)

It’s true that some members of older generations can have some outdated and overly deferential ideas about work, but your mom is on the very extreme end of that — enough of an outlier, in fact, that I’d hesitate to label this a generational issue at all. There are tons of boomers who don’t think this way! She’s not a representative of her generation in this regard, just a part of a small subset of people of all ages with truly corrosive ideas about work.

{ 506 comments… read them below }

  1. Lacey*

    Take off work when you are sick.

    No one wants your germs.
    They’re very likely to resent you for coming in sick – especially post covid.

    1. irene adler*

      Yes- please don’t share those germs with others.

      If nothing else, how good is your work performance going to be when not feeling well?

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        I can barely keep my thoughts coherent enough for basic day-to-day activities with a 101 degree fever. I can pretty much guarantee that if I tried to work I would be worse than useless, because there’d be a good chance I’d mess something up significantly.

        1. irene adler*

          Exactly! This is the reason I do not understand why some employers do not provide sick days. Not only would performance be lackluster, but the sick employee could also make errors that cause more work or even harm to something/one.

          1. tessa*

            Or, they provide SL, but make it very hard to use.

            Retail and restaurants are notorious for giving out a vibe of “It’d be a shame if you called in sick…”

            It’s a really messed-up set of priorities.

            1. RandomBiter*

              Absolutely this in the restaurant world. I can remember a previous employer asking me, “Can’t you get someone to watch her?” when I called off for a sick infant running a 3 digit fever. I didn’t go in but I know I was on “the” list after that.

            2. NotWorkingForFree*

              We are absolutely shamed for using sick leave. “But you’re making it hard on your poor coworkers when you don’t come in and pull your weight!” Bull. We’d rather you stay home and keep your germs to yourself!

                1. GlitterIsEverything*

                  I came here to say this.

                  One of the most toxic healthcare jobs I’ve ever had, I had a boss who told me:

                  * To take as much time as I needed after my son had ear tubes placed

                  * To leave for the day when my kid’s daycare flooded the first time

                  * They couldn’t have me leaving “all the time” after the daycare flooded a second time (severe monsoon season!)

                  * I needed a doctor’s note to verify I had strep so bad I was given antibiotic injections and steroids (I couldn’t even drive myself to drop it off!)

                  * I was given a verbal warning for taking time off for above strep, then taking my previously planned vacation a couple weeks later

                  * I couldn’t leave after 11.5 hours in a day because surgery wasn’t done yet, despite the laws that I couldn’t leave my kids at daycare for more than 12 hours a day

                  Yeah, healthcare can be the absolute WORST when it comes to sick leave.

        2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Agreed! Even worse, I am often sick enough that I can’t accurately evaluate how I am feeling.

          “Ooo, I’m thirsty, I’ll go downstairs for a cup of water.”

          Then I literally crawl along the floor because standing up shows me I would fall down from dizzines.

        3. Kacihall*

          When I came down with (probably) covid in August of 2020, I was so sick that when I called my doctor I literally forgot my own name. I got hit bad on Tuesday, slept all that day and the next day, then told I would work on Thursday (at least they let me be remote at the time!)

          By Monday, I could not remember anything I had done on Thursday or Friday. I don’t think I accomplished much of anything, and hopefully I didn’t cause any problems with my brain fog.

          Please don’t work sick. Someone else will end up dealing with your mistakes, and your germs, and you deserve to rest!

        4. Librarian of SHIELD*

          This. When I’m sick I have to make a “when did I take that medicine” chart because my fever brain is unable to keep track of that information without assistance. I don’t think anybody wants me messing around in the work files when I can barely remember how counting and time work.

      2. Head Exploding*

        100% on the last point. I had a migraine yesterday. It’s not contagious of course, but I would have been more than worthless in the office. I’m the manager of my group and there is no way I want to send them a message that it is better to be suffering in the office instead of recovering at home.

      3. GreasyGal*

        In my line of work (retail), you can’t do your job AT ALL with Strep. Back when I also had that mindset, the only sick days I took was for strep.

    2. High Score!*

      +1000000 Not only are you not productive when you’re sick and infecting coworkers but some co-workers may have compromised immune systems or have immunocompromised relatives that could face hospital time or death over your little contagious illness.
      Also coworkers who must listen to you cough or barf are not going to be all that productive either.
      Stay home.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Or have medical allergies that make treating things like Strep much more complicated. The Cillin family of meds is what most Dr’s like to use for strep throat. For those of us who can’t take Cillins, Strep is a lot more dangerous. Please don’t bring it into an office if you can avoid it.

        1. Le Sigh*

          I do not come to work sick for all the reasons stated, to be clear, but also never thought of this specifically in regard to strep! It’s good to know.

          Before I had actual sick time, I never ever called out of one of my retail jobs, even when sick, bc I couldn’t lose a day’s pay and get a strike on my record. Mostly it was just colds (which I realize is still bad to spread, fwiw). But strep I actually called out for. My boss grilled me and I was like, “Would you like me to come in with a flashlight so you can inspect the spots and mucus yourself? I can bring a thermometer so you can verify my fever, too.” She finally relented but told me I had to find someone to cover me, and for once I stood up for myself and said, “sorry can’t do that gotta go to the doc! see ya in a few days!”

        2. Clisby*

          Yep, we found out my daughter was allergic to the cillin family when she was treated for strep throat in 7th grade. (That was the first time she had been given any antibiotic except for the topical one for pinkeye.)

          1. TiredButHappy*

            I have allergies that go deeper into the beta-lactam class than most people with regular penicillin allergies*, and I really want people to keep their microbes at home.

            I work with microbes. But they’re happily growing on plates and not being expelled across a room by a cough or sneeze.

            *my allergist referral so I can figure out what is safe and what will kill me can’t come soon enough. I can take so few antibiotics without being medically supervised right now.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I’ve popped allergic to first, second, and third generations of the Cillin family. People who come to work with Strep are my personal nightmare.

              Add in my betadyne/iodine allergy, and my intolerance to basically all pain medications – I’ve had primary care dr’s refuse me as a patient because I’m “too complicated to treat” and they can’t be bothered.

              1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                I hallucinate when I take codeine class drugs. That was a fun experience to learn the time I had an ear infection so bad my ear was swollen shut and my eardrum ruptured.

            2. Lucien Nova*

              I can take literally three antibiotics. Total. And one of them isn’t even made anymore which takes it down to two.

              I very much sympathise.

              1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                I discovered the fun way that 4% of people who take sulfa drugs go deaf (it lasted for three weeks).

      2. Claire W*

        Yes this! As someone with a faulty immune system, I would really struggle to be polite with a coworker who knowingly came in with something like that and sat near me all day and risked my health like that.

        (I know there are exceptions where people can lose their jobs and such for taking a sick day but it doesn’t sound like that is a concern OP needs to be worried about)

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I have lost jobs because I complained about a coworker coming in sick and then sitting across a table from me!

          I still don’t like to work sick. It makes the recovery take longer and my coworkers end up resenting me.

      3. If Only*

        I don’t have a compromised immune system by any means but for some reason I am particularly susceptible to strep throat. I avoid public water fountains like the plague (and have for like 15+ years) because I realized that at least 50% of the time, I’d end up with strep throat. I will die of dehydration before I drink from a fountain (and haven’t had strep in nearly 10 years for my efforts). I’m also allergic to 2 different classes of antibiotics (about 25% of what’s on the market). This includes the 2 most common antibiotics given to treat strep.

        If I found out someone purposely came to work with active strep I would be PISSED. Because if I catch it I’m down for a solid 7-10 days and miserable.

        Also, while most people think it’s nothing but a sore throat, Strep can be extremely serious. Rheumatic fever (which killed Jim Henson) is a type of strep.

        1. NotRealAnonforThis*

          All reasons why when a co-irker arrived at our office with strep, and walked around saying “here have some strep” (!!!!!) I turned on my inner bull horn and let her know what I thought. I get strep a lot, and I’m allergic to the preferred antibiotics given for strep infections.

          Why? Who the F knows!
          We had paid sick days, plenty off them. And if you were truly out, they’d FIND a way to pay you.
          We had built in redundancy in tasks and we were lowest level employees.
          We did NOT have a vindictive boss. At all.
          We had no points system.
          We had a separate equally generous vacation bucket
          We had ridiculously hi-end health insurance benefits that cost us nothing out of pocket. (Yes this was half a zillion years ago now)

          Matter of fact, we had a supervisor, boss, and grandboss who in no short order sent her home with a polite request to STAY there until she was fever free for 24 hours. (This was because this was NOT her first episode of showing no common sense so they felt they needed to give her some benchmark.)

          1. still anon*

            I have worked with people who seemed to consider martyrdom their highest calling and would martyr-brag about never taking sick leave, working with walking pneumonia etc.
            While we didn’t have a boss who rewarded that kind of behavior, it was definitely taken advantage of, even while we were all told to take sick leave when needed etc.
            Thank goodness that person is gone, and upper management is all about self-care and not spreading germs.

            1. Le Sigh*

              @NotRealAnonforThis*’s coworker is just a jackass, imo and I think you’re right re: martyrdom.

              I do think it’s interesting to think about where it comes from (in terms of the U.S. — I can’t speak to other countries). I think you can point to a lot of factors, but I feel like we indoctrinate kids early within the public school system. We reward perfect attendance — why? Yes, it’s good to be in school every day if you can be, but lets not encourage kids to come in sick just to get some certificate that frankly, means nothing. When you’re 40, who’s going to care? And I know we had sick days in school, but you could blow through those with one bad strep or flu, and my school did not make it easy to accommodate you if got sick again and needed another day or two. And that was just for kids dealing with everyday illness, not chronic health challenges.

              And in general, at least in America, we (broadly speaking) view it as some kind of virtue to work ourselves to the bone. So many industries (I quit two of them!) pat you on the back for coming in sick, and if you do call out, formally penalize you or just dump a ton of catch-up work on you, making it hard to feel like you can take a day at all. I used to come in sick to work all the time because of jobs like this, and the general attitude I was taught to suck it up — and to be honest, I wasn’t even thinking about whether I had any immuno-compromised colleagues. In my current job, I’ve had to actively encourage coworkers to take time off, vacation or sick time, and unlearn bad habits instilled in them by previous jobs.

              Anyway I’ll get off my soapbox this is just one of those things that really grinds my gears. Especially the school system stuff.

              1. irianamistifi*

                Disability activists have been sounding the alarm on attendance-based reward systems in schools for at least a decade. It not only means that kids with lots of medical issues and doctors visits are ineligible, it also puts kids at risk of being exposed to some nasty stuff because parents of sick kids often have no recourse when they’re sick AND kids are rewarded for having perfect attendance.

                It makes those spaces even more unsafe for medically complex kids and increases the risk of infections for all exposed kids.

                1. Le Sigh*

                  Yeah, I think what’s wild about all of this is schools are breeding grounds for illness. Why wouldn’t you want kids to isolate when sick? Even if you’re only focused on the “bottom line” so to speak, it’s a bad strategy!

                2. Le Sigh*

                  And to be clear, I don’t want to be flip. You’re completely right and I agree with everything you said.

              2. Carol the happy elf*

                My kids had the same 5th grade teacher, who told themin no uncertain terms that a perfect attendance certificate at the end of the year would not be worth what it cost if classmates were infected or even died.
                She told of a friend from her childhood who died of rheumatic fever after strep went through the school, and her tears at losing that friend helped to convince her class that good citizenship meant not making others sick.

                Of course, they were willing to be good citizens….

              3. NotWorkingForFree*

                My current job, I have plenty of sick time, but it’s like pulling teeth to get it used. If I called out tomorrow, my boss would say no problem—but expect me to work extra hours Thursday and Friday to make up the time. And also say since I’m working extra hours, I don’t need to be paid leave for the day off Wednesday. I’ve grown a spine and started insisting I be paid for the day off anyway, because contractually it’s my right. Which then pisses her off because she works me to cover the time, then her budget is hit for the full day sick, too. Tough.

                If I call out tomorrow and feel up to returning Thursday, that’s because I know what I’m scheduled to work Thursday, and how much energy I’ll have. Adding 2-4 hours into my regular shift, will NOT work. I’ll end up calling out Friday.

                And at that point, that’s 2 absences instead of one because I came in, in between the sick days.

                Back when I was sick more often, I ALWAYS called out at least 2, sometimes 3. Because I’d have time to rest and feel better, instead of being at work and miserable, and stretching the recovery longer.

              4. Modesty Poncho*

                You had sick days in school? We just had “unexcused absences” which covered everything from being sick to a last-minute family emergency to playing hooky.

                1. Le Sigh*

                  I think I was using sick days as unexcused absences, though you make a good point — it’s even worse bc you have to use it for doc visits and all kinds of other things.

              5. GlitterIsEverything*

                This hits on so many levels, too.

                Schools work on “butts in seats” for their funding. They also know that kids who miss a lot of school don’t learn.

                But they “solve” that by being absurdly strict, resulting in kids absorbing this “push through anything” mentality.

                But then daycares can’t accept sick kids, for the same reasons schools shouldn’t.

                That leaves parents needing to take time off work because a kid is sick – and, if that parent works in a field with toxic sick leave attitudes, the parent can pay some significant costs for taking the time.

                I remember when I got chicken pox, my single mom hired a Rent-a-Granny (that’s actually what the business was called) to come stay with me. She couldn’t take the time off work, and the only family in town was my grandparents, one of whom was medically fragile.

              6. NotRealAnonforThis*

                Le Sigh is dead on in the assessment that that particular co-irker was and is a complete jackwagon!

                The misspelling of coworker in my description is not, in fact, a mistake but rather a description.

              7. Banker Chick*

                I had a coworker whom I loved, except he had an annoying habit of coming in to work , no matter how sick, in order to save his PTO for vacation. Drove me crazy because not only did he bring all his germs in and be pretty much useless, there were higher ups who praised his “dedication” and then those of us who were responsible and stayed home when we were ill, looked like slackers.

            2. Becca Rosselin-Metadi*

              100%. I had a former colleague who always came to work, whether she was vomiting, had a migraine or a fever. And this is why I came to work sick, because I thought I had to keep up with her. The one day she left early and I went home because I was sick-she called me at home to ask me why I went home. And just at that point, my body decide to cough to oblivion and beyond. It was excellent timing, in that I could go back to her on the phone and say “that’s why”. It instilled very bad habits that I’m still working on breaking because she expected people to be in, no matter how sick. FYI she was (is) not a boomer and neither am I. This crap doesn’t know an age.

          2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            NotRealAnon –

            I’m right there with you in the allergy dept, and probably would have had words with that coworker – from inside a biohazard suit.

            Please, if you have a fever, chills, vomiting, or have diarrhea stay home. The schools will send your kids home for those because those are symptoms that frequently correlate to contagious diseases. Be fair to your coworkers and be selfish with your germs – and honestly, if you are battling those symptoms how much work are you going to get done?

        2. Zap R.*

          This is the thing. For whatever reason, colds kick my butt. We’re talking 5-7 days of misery with either a sinus infection or bronchitis on the tail end. (I’m asthmatic and have a sizable cyst in one sinus, so I suspect those are contributing factors.)

          I know that for some people, things like strep and the common cold seem like no big deal and I’m sure that some people genuinely are able to “suck it up” and carry on as normal. But those people have no idea how fortunate they are. When they come in to work sick, I risk a “minor” illness gobbling up several weeks of my life.

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      I was thinking that your coworkers do not want to get sick with strep throat themselves so they want you to take off while you are contagious.

      Hell, I am a generous coworker and don’t want you coming in when you are feeling sick (even if not contangious) because I will stay home if I feel sick too and it’s only fair to apply the same policy to you.

    4. ferrina*

      Definitely stay home when you’re sick. If you go back in the AAM archives, there are several letters from people who are angry their coworkers came in sick (one memorable one is where a co-worker’s kid infected the whole office). One coworker completely destroyed her working relationship with me by showing up to a conference sick, then spreading it to everyone else. I was working 14-hour days, and I was one of the first to get it. I had a fever of 101 in a strange city when I had a ton of work to do (and I had to miss a lot of VIP events I was supposed to support because she got me sick).

      1. MigraineMonth*

        If I recall correctly, the kid who came in sick with norovirus not only infected the whole office, one coworker’s elderly relative (who had to be hospitalized) and another coworker’s immuno-compromised child undergoing cancer treatment. It was really, really bad.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I just reread the letter, and you have a very good memory! The child undergoing cancer treatment had to be hospitalized, and the elderly relative lived in a retirement home (no mention of hospitalization for her).

          The letter is “my employee knowingly brought norovirus into the office and got a bunch of people sick” from February 6, 2017.

      2. fleapot*

        I would have been *absolutely furious* about someone knowingly bringing norovirus into work or school. I’ve had it once that I know of and it was awful.

        Norovirus is *exceptionally* contagious, too. I don’t know if it’s common knowledge, but people can continue to shed the virus for days after their symptoms resolve. It lives on surfaces for hours, and can survive cleaning with diluted bleach. Just a nightmare.

        (I got it when looking after my sick sister and ~1yo niece. Even if it wasn’t a ridiculously hardy virus, I probably would have been doomed after bathing the kid. But my mom, who visited about a week later, *also* got it, after my sister had scrubbed down every surface in her house.)

        1. TinySoprano*

          One of my besties is a highschool teacher, and everyone at their Year 12 graduation got norovirus a couple of years ago because one of the catering staff knowingly came in with it (which given I used to work in hospitality as well, I figure was probably because they don’t get paid if they don’t come in, or possibly a rubbish boss, but yeesh, norovirus is a line in the sand that should not be crossed). Such a lovely start to the holidays for those kids.

          1. NotRealAnonforThis*

            I believe our local health department would have been very interested in that information.

    5. Phony Genius*

      At some workplaces, knowingly coming to work contagious is actionable. This may include up to and including termination.

      1. nm*

        So in a topsy turvy sort of way, the advice becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Come to work sick and you ensure you should be worried about being fired all the time!

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This was my office before my team was shifted to telework – you knowingly infect the office, you will need to come up with a really, really, really good reason why you just had to be in the office that day.

        And I do mean really, really, REALLY good reason. One coworker got suspended two days without pay for knowingly bringing a Norovirus to the office.

    6. soontoberetired*

      I work for a place that used to count sick days against you, it started changing shortly after I joined. But I still work with people who have been here long enough that calling in sick sends them into a tizzy. It took years for many people to fill comfortable with the new attitude toward sick leave, so I kind of get where the LW’s mom is coming from.

      1. DannyG*

        First day of class in a difficult professional program. Senior professor, one of the founders of that program 30 years prior, gets up to address the class. “The only excuse for missing a class is a death in your family, preferably yours!” I tested that a few months later when I broke my ankle. Came in at the end of class, cast still wet, Dr’s note in hand. He looked at me, wavering on crutches, read the note, grunted, and told me to make up my lab time the next day. That was 50 years ago and, until COVID, remained the ethos and expectation in my field.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I was taking an advanced first aid class that had a similar ethic.

          One class day my roommate though she sprained, but actually broke, her ankle. I made a temporary splint from a cardboard box, then took her to ER. The hospital thought she’d already been triaged! The next class I brought the splint in so people could see it. I got credit for the day, as responding to an emergency was a valid excuse.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      YES YES YES to this.

      About a year before Covid, my workplace decided to shuffle everyone around to “promote collaboration”. We’d recently moved into a building that used to house a call center, and most of my department (thankfully, not I) were moved into the call center area, with small cubes, low walls, and a lot of people sitting close together in a semi-open area.

      It was all good and well until in January 2020, someone came up with a bad cold and it quickly spread around the open area. It was fascinating to watch. The building emptied within a week or two. Everyone was out sick. Deadlines were missed and necessary support was not being provided, because no one was able to work even remotely.

      Fast forward to late 2020 and on a staff meeting, someone asked if it was maybe time to return to the office (great idea, I know /s) and half of the management immediately reacted with “NO! Don’t you remember the January bug?” So at least this incident was able to serve as a horrible warning, and people learned not to do this again. So, no, do not come in sick. Especially post-covid, sheesh, OP’s mom!

      1. mlem*

        Some kind of bug went around my company that January, too. (I wasn’t getting sick very frequently anymore, and I was pretty good about staying home when sick, but my team had a status/presentation with our somewhat new great-grandboss, so I thought I couldn’t miss that. I got most of the way through it when my grandboss, also in the meeting, saw me fanning myself and told me to go home.) I tried not to touch any shared surfaces like door handles with my bare hands or anything, but I kick myself remembering how reckless that was of me.

    8. Naomi*

      I feel like the “post-COVID” part should be emphasized. We just had (are still having) a pandemic! The entire world has spent two and a half years learning how not to spread disease!

      1. K*

        But have not learned how to get the work done while people are out sick. So employers still penalise workers for taking too many days off. At least in the UK, we are back to the pre-pandemic mindset around sick leave.
        In my workplace, we are not allowed to take time off if we have tested positive for covid but only have mild symptoms. Of course, one can lie about their symptoms when requesting the sick leave, but many people in our office don’t do it and come to work with covid.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Holy cow! But people wonder why I insist on a remote job. I’m high risk, and I don’t want to end up with Covid every other month, and Long Covid for the rest of my life because my bosses won’t allow people with actual Covid to stay the hell home.

          That policy would be a signal for me to find another job with sane management.

    9. Temperance*

      Yep. If someone gets me sick, that puts my immuno-compromised husband and our baby at risk, too. And if they get sick because of someone else, I absolutely 100% will make it known.

    10. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. I had an old HR manager (no less!) who would come in ill and cough and hack through his day. It was gross and disruptive and nobody liked it. Especially these days ask to work from home if it’s minor or suspect or just take the well-earned PTO day off. You’ll be sicker longer if you don’t rest.

      Your mom sounds extreme and I hazard to bet this wasn’t the only thing she was weirdly specific about. She seems very anxious.

      I regret the time I didn’t take off more than any time I did. There were days I should have called in and showing up to work when I wasn’t really able to do the job effectively probably cost me at least one FT role. Don’t do it. I hope by now you’ve stayed home.

    11. Wintermute*

      This, covid changed all the rules, even companies that were really bad about letting people use sick time are now much more cognizant of the downsides of people coming in sick, and if they’re not taking a firm stance it’s a gigantic red flag that they’re completely out of touch with reality

    12. Database Developer Dude*

      While I wholeheartedly agree with you, some people have jobs with managers that actively DIScourage taking time off when you’re sick, and some people just don’t get paid when they don’t work. They don’t get much of a choice.

    13. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      THIS (though I want to gently push back on post COVID, since COVID is still with us, unfortunately).

      If a colleague knowingly came in sick and I got sick (likely) as a result, I’d be pretty mad about it. So I’m glad you asked this question, OP! Please stay home and I hope you feel better soon!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I read “post Covid” as “since Covid has been around”, as opposed to the carefree before times.

    14. Chloe*

      This. Added to add, when a person has a fever, they need to rest, so their fever will break. This is some mom! Get others sick and get yourself sicker, especially when that person has to be admitted to the hospital. Oh, guess mom would shame that as well.

    15. Narvo Flieboppen*

      Yes, this! I had a terrible coworker who was lit like the letter writer’s mom, at least in terms of being sick. “The world doesn’t stop just because I’m sick” she would proclaim. While hacking, coughing, sneezing her way around our cubicles. Or, in one case, deciding her desk side trash can meant she did not need to go to to the restroom to vomit.

      We all greatly disliked her. And the guilt trips she would try to lay on anyone else for taking a sick day.

      She tried to hire me at her new job when I was unemployed during the pandemic. I decided unemployment was better than working with her again.

    16. Rex Libris*

      This. I’m a manager, and would be somewhat annoyed and questioning your judgment if you came in with strep throat and a fever.

      Also, you generally aren’t going to get fired if you make a mistake. (Assuming it’s more like “I forgot the TPS report was due today” and less like “I wrecked the company car after a martini fueled power lunch.”) Besides basic human decency and the understanding that people make mistakes, it’s time consuming, disruptive, and expensive to replace people. In other words, even with the Evil Boss your mom seems to be imagining, it’s still bad business to fire people when you don’t have to.

    17. tangerineRose*

      Yeah, no one wants your germs. Also, you might get better faster if you take it easy instead of going in.

    18. Quinalla*

      Yes, I feel like it used to be fairly acceptable to come into work with “just a cold” as long as you didn’t have a fever and could still function like 75% ish. Post-COVID, if you work somewhere that has WFH capability, you would for sure WFH if you are sick at all or just take a sick day and if you can’t WFH, I think folks are much less likely to come in even a little bit sick or take some precautions (not shaking hands, masking up, etc.) This varies by company culture and also by industry, but there has been a big shift on attitudes about coming to work sick.

  2. Justin*

    Importantly, your mom isn’t going to fire you as her daughter if you don’t listen, so feel free to mute her calls as you rest the next few days.

    1. Troublemaker*

      In general, parents are optional. I know that the Bible and Confucius insist that parents are always worthy of respect, but this isn’t true.

      1. Juneybug*

        I think you should respect your parents but still not take their advice to heart.

        Parent: You should go to work sick, otherwise you will get fired.
        You: My employer actually prefers when we call out when we are ill to prevent spreading illness. Thank you for your concern.

        Parent: Don’t let them know you made a mistake.
        You: My supervisor encourages us to come forward with our mistakes so we can correct them and either educate others or put preventive measures in place so it doesn’t happen again. Thank you for being protective of me.

        I love my parents but they provide horrible life advice, especially towards martial and career. So I listen, thank them, and changed the subject.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          My boss wants to know about mistakes, because one time tracking the mistakes that were happening showed a major flaw in a primary program we used as a part of our job. Covering up the mistakes would have made that harder to spot and meant correcting the problem would have happened much later to never at all.

        2. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

          I think you should respect your parents but still not take their advice to heart.

          It depends on the parents. I don’t think my friend whose parents threw her out for being queer really needs to respect their continual stream of letters about how she can “get right with God” and “purge the sin” and so on.

          I mention not for the sake of contrariness but because far more people have parents like hers than people with decent parents often believe. Enough so that it really matters when we talk about “respect for parents” as an overarching concept.

          1. Cringing 24/7*


            People react with such shock and horror that I’ve gone no-contact with one of my parents, and all I can think is “What kind of sheltered or blessed life did you live that this is one of the worst sins?”

            1. Chauncy Gardener*

              Exactly!! With all the news out there regarding child abuse etc, why is it so difficult to comprehend a family of origin toxic enough to warrant going no contact?

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            It’s certainly true that there are a lot of toxic parents who should be cut out of lives.

            But I don’t think it is useful to anyone to jump there in response to this letter about a mom simply giving very bad advice.

            1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

              Concluding that this is definitely “simply bad advice” is as much of an assumption as concluding that LW’s mother is abusive. Isn’t it useful to suggest possibilities? And to head the herd off at the pass — unfortunately, abusive parents are more common than zebras in a temperate environment.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        Even parents worthy of respect can have bad/outdated advice in select areas. Respecting them does not have to mean taking their advice in all circumstances, and, conversely, being wrong on an item like this doesn’t imply the whole person is unworthy.

  3. Happy meal with extra happy*

    Both of my boomer parents have always stressed and demonstrated the importance of work/life balance.

    1. Cj*

      I’m a boomer, and I always stay home when I am sick. I once had a boss who was a generation older than me, and he would come to work sick, get the rest of us sick, and get our clients sick.

      This was the same boss who thought I shouldn’t take vacation days because I never actually went anywhere.

    2. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

      Boomer here: Alison is absolutely right – this godawful advice is NOT an attitude shared by everyone of our generation! I would NEVER advise ANYONE to come to work when they’re sick (especially now, when COVID is still very much alive and spreading, and the symptoms often mimic those of other respiratory diseases) or work as if you’re in fear of being fired every second (sounds like a great way to get ulcers!). LW, please change the subject when your mother tries to give you career advice!

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        As a supervisor, I have such a hard time with staff who are constantly on edge and afraid of being fired. I try to demonstrate that I’m a compassionate person and a safe place for them to come with questions and concerns, but with some people, there’s just no convincing them that they’re not going to be fired at any moment. I need to be able to ask someone to come talk to me in my office without having to spend the first 15 minutes of the meeting calming them down and assuring them they’re not in trouble.

        Advice like OP’s mom is giving makes people afraid for no reason and it makes supervising staff so much harder than it needs to be.

    3. Risha*

      Ikr? My boomer parents always told me to give your all when at work but never let them run all over you or take advantage of you.

      LW, please don’t go to work sick no matter what your mom tells you. Covid isn’t over yet and there are a lot of people who can’t take the vaccine due to a real medical reason (I know 2 who truly cannot take it). Some people have babies or elderly relatives at home and it would be horrible if they got strep or something just as bad. You could have coworkers who are immunocompromised. Just be considerate of others and stay home when you’re sick. No one wants to bring your germs home.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Yes, and thank you.

        There are also literally millions of us (in the US alone) who can safely take the vaccine, but are unlikely to benefit from it, again because of immune problems.

        I had a dose of Evusheld (monoclonal antibodies) yesterday — and in this morning’s email, saw a warning that it may not be useful against the new omicron subvariants. I can and do mask, but one-way masking may not protect me if the person coughing nearby has an active covid infection.

    4. Hannah Lee*

      My mother, who grew up in the 50’s tells the story of when she was just out of nursing school and she worked at a nearby hospital. One workday, she woke up sick with a fever, but felt she needed to go in and work her shift anyway because she was new/it was expected/they were counting on her/she didn’t want to be or be seen as a slacker. My grandfather offered to drive her, since it was the next town over, it was winter and she’d have to make several bus transfers and, he said, he didn’t want her doing that in the cold if she wasn’t feeling well. He wasn’t usually a coddler, but he insisted.

      He drove her to where the hospital was, but didn’t stop. As he slowly drove past he said “See that hospital? It was running before you went to work there and it will keep running after you leave. It won’t collapse if you stay home. You’re sick, you stay home!” and he drove her back home.

      They weren’t rich, they’d barely made it through the depression and he was a crazy hard worker and not a super touchy feely guy. Even HE knew that if you’re sick, you don’t go to work.

    5. jellybean*

      relatedly, I had a Gen X coworker (I’m a millennial, but the age difference wasn’t that drastic) who once said to me with a look of complete and utter shock: “you can’t just say no to your boss!!”. And then I realized this was 100% a rule she believed about the workplace, that saying no to your boss is absolutely never an acceptable thing to do.

      1. still anon*

        Gen X here, and most age-peers I’ve worked with through the decades are more apt to game the system than preach it, myself included. There’s a reason we were called the slacker generation. We were hip to work/life balance early on.

        1. jellybean*

          that’s what I’ve usually experienced lol. It threw me for a loop to hear someone in their thirties (a few years ago now) be so deferential to their bosses.

        2. Rex Libris*

          Yep. Seconding that. As another official Gen Xer, I’m revoking your coworker’s membership card.

      2. Coffee Bean*

        I am a Gen-X. I have said “no” to a boss. Not setting boundaries is not characteristic of all Gen-Xers.

      3. Banker Chick*

        I don’t believe in getting too hung up on “generations”, especially since I am right at the last boomer/first gen x line. But I have said no to the boss. Especially a boss who wanted me to come in when I was very sick. I called her and told her I had a 103 temp and was very sick (flu- pretty sure I got it at work) and wouldn’t be in. She actually told me that if I didn’t have meds at home to reduce fever, get rid of aches etc…that the supermarket next to our work had some and to come in. I told her I was going back to bed and hung up. Actually, I wasn’t in the rest of the week(Dh called me in) and when I returned the following week, she never said a word about anything.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I would have revised my resume after a boss said that to me, even if she didn’t mention it later. That’s just toxic garbage.

    6. I am Emily's failing memory*

      Yeah, for every boomer like LW’s mom, there’s a Millennial or Zoomer glorifying “hustle” and “the grind.” At most, different generations might use different language, but there are unhealthy workaholics at every age.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        …and people with crippling untreated anxiety. Not my place to diagnose LW’s mother, but…

      2. Cringing 24/7*

        This is such a relevant and accurate response – thank you for it, Emily’s failing memory!

    7. irene adler*

      My parents are of the Silent Generation, and they did espouse these things- to a great degree.

      Sure, stay home if you are sure you are ill. A little under the weather? Then suck it up and get on with your day.

      Vacation time? Well, in their day, 2 weeks was the standard and Pops would only take one week each year. Never two. He saved the other week “just in case”. You never know if you’ll be laid off or need the money if you can cash in the vacation hours. He accrued several months of vacation time.

      And yes, always work hard- like you are afraid they will lay you off. Because no employer abides slackers.

      And ‘gumption’ too! Things that we’ve discussed here a lot. Advice like showing up at the place of employment to get a ‘jump’ on the other candidates, or offering to work for one week for free, etc. was offered up.

      My Mom took a job in HR in the 1980’s and she quickly realized how stupid/wrong ‘gumption’ advice was. So that part stopped. But she still insisted that I bring a self-addressed post card to all job interviews- they might ask for one. See, the postcard was the preferred method for many employers to let you know you’d been rejected for the position-
      back in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

    8. marvin*

      My mother always had union jobs so her advice could sometimes be unhelpful in the other direction, assuming I had more employment protections than I did. It’s good to keep in mind that anyone’s advice is a product of their own experience.

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        I have a friend who likes to lecture me on what my job “should” be like. I work for a government agency in a state with few worker protections above the federal requirements. She works for her father in a state with many additional protections. She cannot fathom that her experience of being able to actively surf social media from her work computer is not universal.

    9. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      I’m an early-ish Boomer, and my parents were blue collar workers. They ALWAYS took whatever vacation time they had earned – those road trips were some of the best parts of my childhood. There was a certain amount of “keep your head down and don’t make waves” attitude, but they were both in unions, so there were people to make waves on their behalf, and they knew that. They both retired at the earliest age they could, because they saw the work years as an investment for their second act real life. Dad collected a pension (and other decent benefits) for many more years than he had worked. I bought into one work-place’s “give up your life for us for minimum wage” when I was in my twenties, and my parents thought I was nuts to put in the hours I did. Happily, that phase didn’t last too many years!

    10. KuklaRed*

      Thank you for saying that. I am a boomer and I have always told my kids that they need to take care of themselves when they are sick and not go to work. And also that they should use their PTO and make vacation planning a regular thing, even if they aren’t going to travel anywhere.

  4. nm*

    I am a college instructor and I literally have to beg my students not to come in sick. I wonder if their parents (or the more senior professors) are giving them this kind of advice about their educational standing.

    1. Watry*

      My non-major classes all had strict attendance policies, and K-12 can impress a need for attendance (without a “good enough” reason).

      1. nm*

        Good point. I do not enforce attendance in any way, but I suppose if you’re a student and the class before mine and after mine both require it, it probably feels like “might as well”.

        1. Rock Prof*

          I encounter this with students all the time! I don’t enforce attendance either, yet so many of them will come in sick since they’re on campus anyway for classes that do. At least more recently, sick students have taken to wearing masks while sick (masks are required on campus and we live in a region where apparently no one cares about covid anymore apparently).

        2. Esmeralda*

          My class yesterday sounded like a TB ward. I passed around the hand sanitizer and pointed out the free masks, also handed out cough drops. Can’t make them mask up, can’t make them leave, and I ignore our dept’s absence policy — if they’re sick, for my class they can make up the work with some asynchronous activities and I mark them excused.

          They’re all getting colds, some of them are getting flu, a few are getting covid. They aren’t getting their covid boosters and they’re not getting flu shots. Thank god they stay home when they get norovirus. It is going to get bad.

        3. Smithy*

          I do think that very often the classes that have a kind of requirement to be in class, if you are close to perfect attendance it can serve as an easy way to “pad” your grade if that part of your marks are at “100%”. That way if you have a less than amazing grade on tests/papers – perfect attendance/homework bring up your final grade. And the thinking can translate to work, that always being in the office is a sign of being dependable and can counteract other weaknesses.

          When you’re already operating on this mentality – that being there all the time is a value add, regardless of the quality of your contributions, it can impact other thinking. So you then save skipping class for “you” time. I.e. being hungover because of a party you really wanted to attend the night before or a day you want to skip classes for fun time. Same behaviors happen at work – people save all their PTO (even designated sick days) for what they want to use it for, which being sick rarely is that.

          1. Properlike*

            Attendance didn’t get you any bonus points in my class, because it was required. You had a maximum number of absences before you were dropped from the class.

            I do wonder how I’d work this now. Lots of students had a habit of not showing up without that attendance requirement. There was also the frequent phenomenon of students who’d been absent several times and were on their last absence saying, “But I’m really sick this time!” I tried to tell them on the first day: Things WILL happen. Do not take the day off unless you actually need it!

            This was all pre-Covid, of course.

            1. Smithy*

              Glad to see the attendance doesn’t work as “bonus points” – thought I think where I went to undergrad it functioned more as “class participation”. Which….ultimately just ended up as attendance.

              Either way, I’m not in academia – but just to reflect those were habits I saw in my schooling and then reflected in work as habits to undo. Jobs either reinforce this or can support undoing it by offering a more or less robust basket of PTO/vacation/sick time – because in the US when those baskets are smaller, I get not wanting to take a sick day when that means you could save the sick day for a Friday AM doctors appointments and then have the rest of the day off for a long weekend. Or saving it for a *cough cough* sick day

      2. Observer*

        And how!

        And sometimes, even a “good enough” reason can get you in trouble.

        Unfortunately, it’s not just k-12 schools. There are employers, and industries that have really problematic attendance policies.

        1. lyngend (canada)*

          this, my last job was like this. even missing one day could get you into trouble for the month.

      3. Ama*

        When I was in high school, if you had a low number of absences along with a certain grade in a class you could skip one of the semester finals in that class (it was 3 absences with an A, 2 with a B, 1 with a C ). I remember kids coming to school with bad colds because they really wanted to skip a certain final but didn’t have anymore absences to give.

        I didn’t realize until much later that this policy was both ableist (it punished kids with health issues) and toxic (taught us *terrible* things about not taking sick days when we actually needed them).

      4. MigraineMonth*

        I signed up for a tango class in university, then immediately dropped it when they told us that if we missed any class, for any reason, we dropped a letter grade. At the beginning of the swine flu breakout on campus.

        Even though I was taking the class pass/fail as a fun elective, I refused to dance cheek-to-cheek with anyone who felt pressured to come in while sick.

        1. Cochrane*

          I had a similar uni experience with a weekly computer class (Excel/Microsoft Suite). The instructor must have been frustrated with students who would never show up for class and get good/passing grades by only showing up for tests that he implemented a one strike policy. Miss class more than once? Fail. Administration was no help as an instructor can make their own class policies even if they were more stringent than the official policy.

          On my third and finally successful go-around, he is out of class for a month on jury duty. When instructor evaluations were passed out, he got all zeroes from me. Nice guy, good teacher, but didn’t abide by his own attendance policy.

          1. nm*

            In my opinion if one can get good/passing grades without attending the class, it’s not the students’ “fault”…could be a problem with the evaluation metrics, or a mismatch between who is taking the class vs who actually needs it, etc…but making attendance mandatory is just “treating the symptom” :(

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            Okay, maybe it’s just me, but I can’t imagine taking an entire university class just for Excel/MS Office, much less showing up every session for it. I would be snoring in class.

            1. Lanlan*

              I practically taught class when I had to take one. It was required, even though I’d been playing with MS Office since Windows 3.11.

      5. Double A*

        K-12 schools lose money for every day a student is absent, so that is a huge reason they are sticklers about it.

        I’m not saying that’s good, but that is the funding model.

        1. Observer*

          That’s definitely not the case in many private schools, and I’m not sure it’s even universal in private schools. In any case, it still enforces a TERRIBLE model that creates skewed attitudes about attendance.

      6. KoiFeeder*

        Yeah, when I was out getting surgeries senior year, the administration kept saying they had to hold me back because I wasn’t physically in classes. Never mind that I’d been doing all the homework and every assignment that didn’t require being there in person, what mattered was that my butt wasn’t in a seat.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Butts in seats management styles have their origin in grade school these days, IMO.

      7. JustaTech*

        I had one prof who gave me a hard time about missing class (and not turning in a homework on time) because I was sick (everyone lived on campus). I was *really* sick and pretty frustrated (all my other profs were like “please god stay in your room!”) but I got my RA to write me a “sick note” and that was the end of it.

        Another year I got terrible bronchitis (maybe even whooping cough) at the end of the semester but still had some in-person finals. (Other finals were take-home, common at my school.) On every exam I wrote a great big note that said “Please disinfect before grading, I am sick and I coughed all over this exam. I don’t want to get you or your family sick.”

        The school clinic would only offer me some extra-strong cough syrup, so I had to wait until after I’d flow home (wearing a mask I happened to have) to get some real treatment.

        Pretty much everyone at my school agreed that we (the students) had an unhealthy work ethic and we should maybe address that, right after all our classes were done.

      8. SpaceySteph*

        States are increasingly tying funding to attendance. My kid just started kindergarten this year and the district’s attendance policy is draconian.

        Incidentally she’s home sick today and I received a phone call, text, AND email all informing me she was out.

      9. That One Person*

        Makes me extra glad mum supported staying home for “mental health” days as long as my sister and I didn’t abuse it.

    2. ZSD*

      I do think school is different from work. When I was growing up, my mother (mostly a SAHM, so it wasn’t a matter of her needing to get to work) would only let us stay home from school if we were seriously ill, as in vomiting. If we just had a cold, we went in to school. The reason is that school moves on without you, and if you miss a day of your education, then you carry that loss with you the rest of your life. It wasn’t that we thought we’d be kicked out of school! Your students probably don’t want to miss the day of learning.
      It was such a joy to me when I joined the working world and could actually stay home when I had a cold. If you miss a day of work, either the work waits for you for a day, or someone else does the urgent work for you. It’s so different from school!

      1. nm*

        I appreciate this perspective as it gives me insight into how my students may view things. I honestly think the idea of “you carry that loss with you for the rest of your life” is not a healthy approach to education, but if many people hold this perspective then it is understandable why they would make these choices.

        1. Warrior Princess Xena*

          I still remember when I was a student missing a day for being sick meant catching up on an extra day of work when I already felt like I was drowning in schoolwork and homework. And that’s even without having days where I knew tests and quizzes were scheduled, and with parents who were really good about signing us out properly whenever we needed it.

          These days I probably wouldn’t be as stressed because more and more work is being made available online, and I’d be able to catch up at home at my own pace instead of trying to figure out how I would eke out that day by giving up lunches and breaks for the next week.

          1. As Per Elaine*

            Yeah, it wasn’t so much that I was worries about learning loss, but there were definitely times in high school when the thought of having to do make-up work on top of regular work was oppressive enough that I just went to school anyway. (I tried not to do so with anything really nasty, but I’m certain I gave some of my classmates and teachers colds, sorry about that. In fairness, they were doing the same to me.)

            And then the sports coaches would declare that if we were well enough to come to school we were well enough to do sports, and I was like, “I am marginally functional enough that I can manage to drag myself through eight hours of school, but there is no way I can handle running around outside in 40F weather for two hours on top of that.”

      2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        I remember the only time I was allowed to stay home from school was when I had whooping cough and literally could not catch my breath. Otherwise, it was go to school. Before Covid people considered it a badge of honour to drag their sick bodies to work. Now, most people realize that staying home is the sensible thing to do. Management will send sick people home now which was unthinkable 2 years ago.

        1. Watry*

          I haaaaated those parents when I was in school. Wouldn’t let their kid stay home for one day, but I’m immunocompromised and I’d catch it and be out for a week, often in the hospital.

          1. nm*

            Oof. I’m pretty much guaranteed that if a student comes in sick I’ll catch it, and I tell them so. And yet!

        2. CR*

          I remember one time my mom didn’t let me stay home and I was extremely sick. Eventually she took me to the doctor and I had a double ear infection. Whoops!

      3. Velociraptor Attack*

        Carrying missing one day of school with you for the rest of your life is a VERY intense message to pass on. School moves on, sure, but you can get the work from your teachers, notes from classmates, you are FINE.

        No one is impacted in any way for the rest of their life because they missed one day of 10th grade.

        1. Esmeralda*

          Correct. My son missed gigantic swaths of school attendance from second through 8th grade. He made up the work at home.

          We also took him out of school for trips. Because he *really* needed to do some fun stuff.

          He’s a fully functioning adult, missing school did not follow him forever and ever. It didn’t even follow him for more than a couple of weeks, while he made up the work he’d missed.

        2. Myrin*

          Right? What a load of bullcrap!
          (Funnily enough, I actually do have an example of that: there’s one particular construction in French grammar which until this very day I don’t know how to use or even what exactly it means because we learned it on two days I was out and then it somehow never came up again! It was part of the following exam but since I was really good at French, I aced all the other parts and even guessed some of the one dubious part correctly and still got a good grade. This was 16 years ago and I really can’t say that it has impacted me in any way – I’ve since gathered that it isn’t actually that rare of a construction IRL but if I decided today that I want to become as near-fluent as I once was, I’m sure I wouldn’t face huge difficulties 1. finding a detailed explanation for what and how the construction is used, and 2. (re-)learning it in a matter of two hours. It’s really not that dramatic.)

          1. Capybarely*

            I missed long division week in 3rd grade. It’s been a few decades, and while I do sometimes transpose which number is the numerator, it’s a pretty obvious error, and I just do it again.

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              I missed a week of Algebra 2 when my grandpa died, and while I’m sure that contributed to my struggles in math….I didn’t know then I had dyscalculia which I’m sure was the bigger reason I nearly failed trig.

        3. Antilles*

          Yeah, I missed plenty of days here and there while I was in school and it generally just meant doing a bit of extra study to catch up on what I missed.
          I’ll also note that for most people, a fairly high percentage of what you learn in school is mostly irrelevant to your life post-school. It’s useful to make you a more well-rounded person, to give you a baseline of understanding things, etc…but the cold reality is that plenty of the information falls into a place like “well, the last time I had to solve a differential equation was back in 2005 and that may never change”.

        4. MeepMeep123*

          Seriously. I had absolutely no trouble missing school when I was a kid. I made up the work at home and I was perfectly able to keep up. The message I want to teach my kid, especially in these COVID times, is that when you’re sick you stay home so that you don’t infect others. You don’t know who is immunocompromised or has immunocompromised family members. You don’t know whom you’re sending to the hospital, but there is a chance that you will, in fact, send someone to the hospital.

          I’d rather teach my kid that she should prioritize her health and public health over school, or work.

      4. Purple Cat*

        Well, as someone with “perfect attendance” as a kid, this is an outdated view of school that needs to die. You don’t “carry that loss with you the rest of your life” for ONE day! It took a lot of mental effort for me to overcome that concept, but frankly I’m proud of myself for prioritizing my son’s mental health when his in-person therapy appointments meant he missed 1 day of school EACH WEEK for the last month or so of last school year. And guess what, he’s doing just fine scholastically, and more importantly, he’s doing better mentally!

        1. Payne's Grey*

          I love this. I slogged on through deteriorating mental health throughout my whole teens, and ended up dramatically burning out at university, which was awful and much harder to come back from. Self-compassion is a life skill. It sounds like you’re doing a great job raising your son.

      5. Temperance*

        Wow. That’s a really toxic mindset, and is also incorrect. Hopefully that nonsense ends with you. It’s not that you only learn this one thing one time, and NEVER hear it again, or that you’ll actually do well if you feel like crap.

        My family was similar to yours. I regularly went to school with severe bronchitis and sinus infections. It was *embarrassing* and it’s not like I was at my best, either.

      6. Zap R.*

        Missing a single class on parabolas/obscure French verb tenses/the Marshall Plan/whatever has absolutely no bearing on someone’s later life.

        1. Morning reader*

          I missed a week in 5th grade when they taught square dancing. Still can’t do it, can’t say that I’ve missed it. There’s a vaccine for the mumps I had (and the measles and the chicken pox) now though. I hope kids are healthier now, in general.

        2. Liz*

          I missed the entire American Revolution, but fortunately it turns out there are a couple of books on the topic.

    3. Lance*

      For school especially, and strong emphases on attendance that I can very clearly remember when I still attended… this wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if it was coming from parents/habit/a mix of both.

    4. Sunny days are better*

      Last year when my son was attending junior college, his phys.ed. teacher penalized him for not being able to hand in an exercise assignment on time because he was too sick to actually work out. (Take home fitness assignment)
      That same teacher wouldn’t let him leave 30 minutes early one class to get a flu shot either.
      These are just two examples of one teacher of all the rigid expectations that many teachers have – even during the height of Covid.
      It was no surprise to me that by the last semester of his studies, he was DONE, and just wanted to graduate and get out of Dodge.

    5. oranges*

      I’m certainly a member of the Perfect Attendance generation.
      As the TikTok says:

      To everyone who went to elementary school sick to keep that perfect attendance record alive…

      How’s that massive pile of unused PTO doing?

    6. Masha*

      I went to a college that needed a doctor’s note for an absence, otherwise after the first absence it was a half letter grade penalty per day missed for the whole semester. I felt so terrible for the kids that clearly got viruses and didn’t have the strength or money to go to the doctor!

      I get that attendance is important but this isn’t the way to teach someone that.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I signed up for a class that dropped a full letter grad a day (if I recall correctly), REGARDLESS of the reason for absence. It was a tango class, where you were dancing cheek-to-cheek with multiple partners. I noped out so hard.

          1. londonedit*

            My mind is blown at the idea that a tango class could have any bearing whatsoever on your university grades, let alone that someone would deduct marks for non-attendance.

            1. Doreen*

              This might be a thing that’s specific to the US, but IME , any course you can take applies to one degree or another and saying that a tango class shouldn’t have any bearing sort of assumes at best that grades in courses outside your major should be irrelevant, and that a grade in a non-required language/math/science class should have no bearing if someone is working on a dance degree.

              1. Anon Career Advisor*

                This is why we often tell students who have to put their GPA on their resume (because the application expects) to include either both overall and major GPA or just major GPA. Because no one screening applicants for a job in biomedical engineering (for example) cares that they failed Beginning Tango or the random course they took because it sounded cool and then wasn’t.

      1. Temperance*

        Who has the money to just get doctor’s notes like that while in college? I didn’t have insurance at the time, so I would have gone and infected everyone around me.

        1. kiki*

          Yeah, it also eats up a lot of time that doctors don’t have! I recently cut my finger badly enough that I thought I might need stitches– the urgent care I went to couldn’t see me for 4 hours. I was actively bleeding and that was how I was prioritized. How would a doctor prioritize seeing someone who is too contagious or fatigued to work, but really just needs rest?

          1. Jay (no, the other one)*

            We curse a lot, ideally under our breaths. When I worked in primary care I would write sick notes for patients without seeing them. The note said “Telephone consultation with Jane re: illness starting 11/1. Cleared to return to work 11/3.” I absolutely refused to use up appointment slots and charge my patients a copay they often couldn’t afford while exposing everyone else to whatever they had. But I had colleagues who refused to write notes unless the patient came in. Aarrghhh.

          2. Jackalope*

            To say nothing of the fact that if you’re sick and worn out but not with something serious, you’re going to do a better job recovering if you can just stay home and sleep rather than having to go to the doctor’s office and wait for however long.

          1. Christmas Carol*

            But at my college, they wouldn’t give you a sick note unless you were admitted for inpatient care, and then only for the actual day(s) you were confined to the Health Center.

      2. Jam today*

        Many of my college classes had the same rule. One class had it so if you missed more than twice it was a whole letter grade penalty.

      3. Random Misfit*

        My primary college instructor who taught 3 of my 4 classes had a personal policy that any absence was an unexcused absence and every unexcused absence was the loss of a full letter grade.

        I had to miss my grandfather’s funeral because of him.

        1. Bananagram*

          I’m a college instructor, so I say this with real feeling: what a colossal jerk. I’m so sorry!

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          May that college instructor never have a full night’s sleep without needing to get up for the bathroom, may they always step on a lego going to and from the bathroom, and may the other side of their pillow *never* be cold when they return to bed.

        3. Rock Prof*

          Aside from just being a reasonable human being, I don’t have the patience or organizational skills to keep track of this kind of stuff for my classes!

    7. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’m very recently out of grad school and both my undergrad and grad professors had very strict attendance policies – 3 strikes you’re out kind of things. A lot of us went in sick.

    8. Irish Teacher*

      As a secondary school teacher, I do think some of it might be coming from there. As everybody HAS to attend school, there are obviously some students with serious attendance issues. Teachers, admin, etc naturally want to deal with these, as these students are usually falling pretty seriously behind. I am talking students who miss a day or more most weeks or who miss a week or two or even three in a row most months and who do not have health issues that are causing this.

      The thing is there are often quite complicated reasons for this – possibly issues at home, possibly bullying, possibly learning difficulties and being embarrassed to go to school where the other students always seem to do better, anxiety disorders and so on – and schools often lack the ability to deal with these issues and as a result often go for what seem like “easy fixes” – rewards for full attendance, etc. And also tend to lecture students about the importance of attendance. The lectures are aimed at the students who are working on the premise that “it’s raining, so I won’t go to school today,” or “I don’t like science. I won’t go to school on the days we have science.” But the problem is those tend not to be the students who are affected by the lectures and they most certainly aren’t the students motivated by the rewards. A kid who missed 70 days last year is not going to even consider that if he misses less than 3 days he’ll get a reward. That’s so far beyond what he could even aim for. It’s the kid who rarely misses a day but is still sick on the 4th day off, but wants to go in because it’s a week from the end of the year and getting the reward all depends on this.

      There is an impression in school sometimes that high attendance is “being good” and poor attendance is “bad.”

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I regularly missed 30-40 days a year all throughout k-12. After awhile the attendance incentives and lectures all just went in one ear and out the other. For those kids, these things don’t work.

        They will work on the kid who is in almost every day and comes down with the flu and feels guilted into coming in sick because they’ve come to define themselves by the positive attention perfect attendance brings.

        The system is flawed.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I agree. It’s an attempt to put on a quick-fix on a complicated and many-faceted issue, some of which schools have limited control TO fix.

          And the powers that be can look at the data and think “hey, it’s working. Absenteeism is down from 10% to 8%,” but…it’s the kids who NEED to be out because they are sick or have some other really valid reason to miss a day who are coming in and the ones that were missing significant amounts of time are still doing so.

    9. Lynne679*

      In both my community college and undergrad, I had several classes where attendance was part of the grading process. I had one college professor who wouldn’t even accept my paper via email because I didn’t attend class (this was 2014 when professors still wanted you to print out your papers and hand them in via class. This also sucked because we had to pay to print out our 10+ page papers). If couldn’t attend class because you had to attend a wedding or go to a funeral, you had to provide proof to the professor that you went to the wedding via an invitation or an obituary. (Again this was in the early-mid 2010s. I don’t know how different it is now).

      I’m assuming this need to require students to have perfect attendance is trickled down from higher ed administration where they expect professors and adjunct instructors to never cancel classes.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I hope the comments are giving you some perspective on how harmful these kind of policies can be! I know you’re not enacting them personally but you never know where you’re going to end up, and if you’re at an institution with rigid policies I hope you’ll push back.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Wow, there’s something really extra about forcing students to find and bring in an obituary for their recently deceased friend or relative. It makes my skin crawl.

        Not to mention that even if they do bring in an obituary, that doesn’t prove that they attended the funeral, or even that they knew the deceased.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          When I was TA-ing a college course, I had students both drag themselves in severely sick and bring in obits to show me why they missed. I ended up making a Point Of It to mention the first week that I Do Not Need any obits, wedding announcements, or to physically *see* that they are Sickly. I will be *more upset by far* if you drag your sickly self into my office and get me/everyone else sick. I had students that were very upset and really thought they’d get banned from class for life if they didn’t do any of the above. Clearly someone at some point was teaching these poor kids that they *had to*, and it was an adjustment and a half for some of them.

          I refused to mark them down for missing discussion classes. Missing labs I had them make up in another lab if they could attend with minimal fuss; if they couldn’t attend any of the labs those two weeks they’d have to do an out-of-lab lab or they’d get marked down. If they missed too much class, and they struggled with the material – it was up to them to attend office hours and get caught up. 98% of them were totally fine. If they were in the remainder that missed because they didn’t feel like going too often, they figured it out that probably they shouldn’t do that and struggled a bit.

          (I also refused to mark anyone down if their digital assignment wasn’t emailed to me by exactly 1159PM because that is a stupid deadline and I’m not even going to check them until 8AM the following day during normal business hours. On the flip side, I also reminded my students that questions submitted past 9PM the day it’s due probably aren’t going to be answered before the following morning, so plan accordingly.)

        2. J*

          My grandparents didn’t even have obituaries or funerals but I was at their deathbed and a memorial service later. I had an employer who docked me against my vacation time because they only issued bereavement leave to people with obituaries. When my brother-in-law died, it took nearly a week to even meet with the funeral home because of the backlog of Covid deaths so by the time they published the obituary it was a different pay period and my employer tried to deny it. I threatened to go to the nonprofit board and suddenly they figured out how to resolve it.

        3. academic fibro warrior*

          When I was learning to teach some years ago, there was a real perception that students were lazy like us grad student teachers who rarely missed or went in sick or were perfectionists or whatever felt about ourselves for not being 100% on always.

          Also we weren’t talked to how to handle this with grace and compassion. And some schools even in higher ed have real draconian attendance policies.

          I stopped after I realized I had a student have his nurse mother forge doctor’s notes when frat parties (that I saw him stumbling home from sometimes because small college town) kept him home and the students who could not afford to go see a doctor (pre ACA) were being failed for it. Disability studies has made great strides in analyzing why strict attendance policies are generally a bad idea.

          Especially now with all the bugs going through the dorms and me getting every thing the students have post-shutdowns, I just won’t.

          It’s hard for me to mentally adjust still even though I have 25 years of a chronic condition that regularly knocks me flat on my back for 24-48 hours even though it’s better managed than it’s ever been.

          Heck today I tried to go in and teach with a fever, made it 2 hrs, and noted back on home (I masked and kept distance the whole time) but half of my students sniffled and coughed through class. They’ve really been inculcated that skipping class for any reason means they are Bad People. It’s sad and I’m working to retrain and model healthier behavior. But it’s hard.

        4. Lynne679*

          I don’t know if this was the official policy at my alma mater, but it was very wide spread among my classes :(

          Even my former workplace required me to send an obituary for me to get bereavement leave.

      2. NotRealAnonforThis*

        Personally saw a college level professor who did not accept my dear friend’s hospital discharge papers as reason for his missing three days of class (he was not cleared to drive so I was his ride to and from class for a bit) including an exam. Friend even escalated it to the dean and head of program, who did not have the authority to override the professor apparently.

        So three days inpatient made him have to re-take a semester class. Because apparently not attending due to being hospitalized was so offensive to this professor that he scored all things during those days as “0” for my friend. This vindictive @$$ even assigned retroactive bonus points for attendance during those days if we showed our notes from class.

        1. Lynne679*

          I’m going to guess that professor was tenured and felt that they could do whatever they wanted and treat students like crap. It’s shocking what those people can get away with.

      3. NotWorkingForFree*

        On the opposite end of the spectrum, I had a college history class that had no attendance requirement, however the instructor frowned on missing, of course.

        His fix was, miss all you want, but if you miss a test or quiz (and he gave random pop quizzes at the start of class) then you don’t get to make up the grade.

        90% of our class (including me) waited in the hallway outside of class, until he started class. The quizzes were ALWAYS first if there would be one that day. If he didn’t announce a quiz, we all left. If he started handing out quiz papers, we filed in and took our seats.

        I don’t remember my grade, as it was over 30 years ago, but I had nothing less than a C, mostly Bs, that semester. So I did plenty good on the tests without suffering through the lectures.

    10. Momma Bear*

      There was a family in my HS where they were encouraged to go to school no matter what. The one daughter got perfect attendance her entire 13 years. You know they went to school sick on multiple occasions. Ick.

      1. marvin*

        This reminds me that my high school gave out a scholarship to students who never missed a single class for any reason in the whole four years they attended. Great example to set there.

    11. kiki*

      My (boomer) parents were actually pretty chill about work-life balance. My K-12 teachers were a little rigid because attendance is concretely a huge part of their jobs (little PTO, having to find their own subs, etc.) but ultimately they didn’t want to catch germs or have to deal with a vomiting students. It was some of my college professors who actually had the most awful work-life balance and advocated for absolutely bonkers attendance policies. One of my professors preached to her students about how she missed her MOTHER’S FUNERAL to be present and proctor an exam, so they had no excuses. Even if you were in the hospital the night before, you’d be expected to take the exam the next day for some classes.

    12. KK*

      I had one class in college that was a lab. There were only 10 classes (one a week for the quarter). The instructor told us if we missed one class, we’d fail, and the only excuse he’d accept was if we were in the hospital.

      We all showed up to his lab on September 11, completely shell-shocked. He started teaching like nothing was wrong. When he noticed our bewildered faces, he said, “What? It’s not like they’re gonna fly a plane into us.” and kept on going.

      1. Observer*

        Now this is someone who shouldn’t decide on what to feed a bug. This person has absolutely ZERO empathy or feelings. If I were writing a science fiction story, I would cast this person as a robot masquerading as a person.

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        That reminds me of a grandboss who couldn’t believe we all got up and left a meeting when we found out the Boston Marathon bombing happened. Yes. We were in Boston. Yes. We all knew people who were there.

    13. marvin*

      I definitely had it drilled into me that unless I was in the hospital, my attendance grade was taking a hit. This was a few years ago but I wouldn’t be surprised if that same mentality still flourished in academic environments.

    14. Koala dreams*

      There’s a strong incentive to come to class sick, since the consequences of missing class can be so harsh. As a student, you can’t ask someone else to do your work for you, the way an employee can ask a co-worker to cover your shift or the important work meeting. If you miss class, you have to catch up. If you miss too much and fail the class, you risk having to retake the class or postpone your graduation. There’s a lot of stress.

      Also, the teachers often set the wrong expectations. In all my university classes, I only had one teacher say that illness didn’t count against the attendance requirements. How will the students know they can take sick leave if nobody tells them?

    15. blue giraffe*

      with the caveat that in some places college is like high school, or between high school and university … when I was in (STEM) uni, missing a class meant more-or-less missing the work. In principle I could read the textbook, but profs did a lot more explaining than the textbook. In practice, the textbook wasn’t nearly as clear as most of the profs. So, yeah, I went to uni sick. I was in a competitive STEM program, so I couldn’t just “borrow” notes from others – we were all mostly protective of our notes.

    16. AnonyChick*

      Among the best professors I ever had (and this is only part of why) was a health professor with the following policy:

      1) If you email me before class to tell me you’re sick, that’s an excused absence.

      2) If you email me after class to tell me you’re sick, that’s an excused absence.

      3) If you show up to my class with visible symptoms, unless we’ve previously discussed them (ie, if you’ve told me you have allergies) or you have a note from a medical practitioner—campus health counts!—saying you’re not contagious, I will kick you out of my class until your symptoms resolve or you bring a note, and it will be an UNEXCUSED absence.

      4) All of this is on my syllabus, but if you need me to write a note saying it (for example, if you live under your parents’ roof and rules), I will gladly do so.

      He also practiced what he preached: he had chronic sinusitis, and would announce each semester that that that was the case, and that he had a note from his doctor saying so if anyone wanted confirmation.

      Perfect? Of course not; the policy definitely missed in a few ways. But WAY better than the reverse? Oh, yeah!

      (He also was the one, during the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic, to go to the dean of the whole school and explain that if they did not institute some protective measures against H1N1, he was going to quit and tell both the entire student body and everyone in his field why. All of a sudden, profs were not allowed to penalize absences for students with doctor’s/campus health notes OR students who sent in a dated photo of themselves with a thermometer showing a fever, campus health was now permitted to kick students off campus (or back to the dorms, if they lived on campus) if they had a fever over 101°, soap and paper towel holders were kept fully stocked, and hands-free hand sanitizer stations popped up all over campus. Strange, that.)

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yes, this. I wonder, was the mother able to actually enjoy that trip to Barcelona? Or did she spend it all fretting about work?

    2. Sally*

      I agree! When I started working in “corporate America,” I assumed I would easily be fired for any mistakes. I definitely wasn’t creative and didn’t try much of anything outside of my job description. I think it was partly not knowing how office jobs work and partly having imposter syndrome. I’ve been working in offices now for about (OMG, I just counted the years!) 30 years, and I finally know and believe that my company values my work and isn’t going to randomly fire me. And I still have twinges of panic about not doing enough, not working enough hours, not producing enough to be worthy of my job. Thank goodness, though, that happens a lot less than in the past.

  5. just another queer reader*

    Letter writer, I’m really glad that you’re realizing that your mom’s perspective is skewed and finding your own way.

    Alison, thanks for being the voice of reason for so many of us.

  6. Lilo*

    The funny places is that the jobs I had where they did have that kind of attitude were all absolutely terrible minimum wage jobs. I got yelled out for not continuing to work while I was throwing up… at a fast food place. Yep, they expected me to throw up in a trash can and keep making people’s food. Mind you the manager could have jumped on the line for me but didn’t.

    Whereas my adult job with salary and an office doesn’t even blink at sick days.

    1. Lilo*

      (When I said “adult” I meant me personally. I worked a ton of different jobs as a student and it was those low paying jobs that always demanded personal sacrifice. One retail job tried to get me to skip class or exams. Whereas my boss now will wish people well when they go off on vacation or flex time off to go to baseball games).

    2. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      Yep, that’s super-common in the medical field, too. It’s very hard to keep providing front-line services when people are gone, I get that, but for food service and even medical services, it’s on the employer to figure out how things will be covered in times like this. It’s WAY easier in most office jobs to take off b/c those are typically jobs where you’re not facing people/customers/patients every day. It’s a crappy system, b/c those people-facing jobs are super-important to many people’s every day lives, yet the employees there are often not well-compensated and never feel like we can take time off. I don’t know what a good answer is, honestly, but it’s a frustration.

      1. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

        oooh yeah, the medical field is SO BAD at prioritizing the health of workers.

        My intern year was pre-COVID, and I remember my whole team being confused when I would wear a surgical mask while I had a cold. Our coverage system was pretty terrible (there, uh, wasn’t one? your team just covered your patients for you, on top of their own), so I wasn’t going to overwhelm them by staying home unless I HAD to. We once forced our senior to go home after she came in with a fever and threw up during lunch, but that took a lot of persuasion.

        1. BabyDoc3000*

          Omg 100%. During residency the expression was “we’re rounding with you or we’re rounding on you” (basically the only excuse for not being in the hospital for work was being in the hospital as a patient).

    3. Just Another Zebra*

      Agree with this 100%. My first job was mall retail in a very popular store. I’ll admit to being a really dedicated employee. I never called out, showed up on time, stayed late, and covered peoples shifts constantly. I remember nearly getting written up for calling out when I had the flu during the holiday season. Shortly thereafter I put in my notice. Can’t imagine why.

    4. Meep*

      I find it really depends on the person. My dad is a little bit like this where he would work through a cold prior to the pandemic because he was a teacher and students are little germ factories. As such, he never understood why I took time off for my chronic migraines.

      I have mentioned it before but my Former Toxic Manager (TM) accused me of being pregnant whenever I got sick whether it was the stomach flu, a cold, or even bronchitis and pneumonia to try to bully me into working while sick. Often, these accusations were followed by (very illegal) threats that I would be out of a job if I was pregnant. She was definitely the embodiment of 1950’s CEO of a Factory and I think it made her mad that she wasn’t born in that era as a man, though.

      1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        My parents worked in factories in the ’50s and ’60s, and they did not have bosses like that. Most factory workers were in pretty strong unions in those decades. TV sitcoms would have exaggerated evil bosses for comic effect, though, and people laughed at them because they usually weren’t true to life. The nastiest real-life bosses got prevalent in the 70s and onward because of all the minimum-wage, non-union service jobs like fast food.

    5. Dinwar*

      It was the opposite with me. My first job was with line cook in a local fast food place, and I was told directly NOT to come in sick. I wasn’t worth the fine from the Health Department. My first “adult” job was as a field geologist, and I only got paid when I worked. And yeah, I was afraid I’d be fired for any mistake–I saw it happen a few times. It took getting kicked off a jobsite for a day to get over that. A manager explained to me, quite firmly, that if I was so sick I was getting dizzy spells I was a safety risk and it was cheaper to put me up in a hotel for a day than to deal with the recordable I was going to cause.

      Ultimately it comes down to culture. For my part I have made it a point to let staff know that if they’re sick let me know and stay in the hotel.

    6. turquoisecow*

      My first part time retail job must have had a problem with people calling out sick because the first time I did it they connected me to the manager who gave me a long lecture about responsibility and work ethic. I don’t think he even knew who I was but it left me feeling rattled even though I was legitimately sick.

      A few years later I was working in a different store. They had a policy that you had to call out 4 hours prior to your shift. I think I woke up at 9 for an 11:00 or 12:00 start. Called in practically shaking because of that previous experience but the supervisor there just said “ok, feel better soon!” Both stores needed every cashier they could find as they didn’t have the budget to staff extras, so me calling out was an inconvenience but not insurmountable. But me coming in sick and sneezing or coughing (or vomiting) on customers and their groceries wasn’t a good idea either.

    7. A nonny mouse*

      I worked food service, and we had similar policies. Part of the problem was ‘lack of coverage’ b/c they could only schedule so many people, and would even cut shifts early if it could be done. My final straw was my leaving early from the store straight to Urgent Care, where I had BRONCHITIS. I called from the urgent care to the store, was told I still had to find coverage for my shift—and we were in the middle of a district wide-hiring freeze. Stores like that often operate at skeleton crew b/c it’s all about what profits they can squeeze with a minimal coverage since costs are high otherwise. Yes, I understand you need bodies in the store–but SCHEDULE MORE BODIES. You do not want to know how many food service workers are actually ‘ill’…

  7. CR*

    Not only should you not listen to your mom – stop talking to your mom about work! I love my parents, but they have little idea of what I do at work on a daily basis, when I take sick days, etc. Boundaries are very healthy and important. Part of being an adult is not giving your parents the opportunity to have input into your daily life.

    1. nm*

      I confess my own parents are such chronic worriers that within a good relationship overall, I never tell them I’m sick until after I’ve recovered.

    2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      Yep. Or if she brings it up a simple “My employer isn’t like that, thankfully!!!

    3. Roland*

      > Part of being an adult is not giving your parents the opportunity to have input into your daily life.

      I really disagree that this is some generally-applicable part of being an adult. The problem is that the mom’s input is bad, not that she has opinions about her kids life. Part of being an adult is having the POWER to prevent input from your parents if you don’t WANT it, sure. It’s not required to cut them off of all info as proof of adulthood.

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        Not to nitpick, but there are miles between cutting off your parents and giving them limited / select info. If you’re someone who shares every detail with your parents, that’s completely within your rights. But since OP knows her mother gives poor work advice, an information diet isn’t a bad idea.

        1. Myrin*

          I mean, Roland said “cut [your parents] off of all info as proof of adulthood”, not “cut off your parents”, in direct response to the poster above him.
          And while I fully agree with him, I also think that, just like everyone replying to him took one part of his comment a bit out of context, he, too, took CR’s last sentence out of context (CR’s whole comment pretty clearly just meant “adults have the power to deny their parents the opportunity to give input on their lives”, not “you’re only an adult if you forbid your parents to say anything about your life, ever”).

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        There’s cutting people out completely and there’s curating the information they get. In most cases people already have things – their sex lives for example – that they don’t give details on. Just add work to that category.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        I’m pretty open with my parents about a wide range of subjects, but that’s partially because they don’t offer lots of opinions on my daily life. They’ll give me advice if I ask for it, and they can be a good sounding board while I’m working through something, but they aren’t going to try to influence the jobs I take, the people I date, whether I have kids, my hobbies, etc. They certainly aren’t going to tell me to go to work when I’m sick, or even *not* to go into work when I’m sick, because I’m an adult and it’s my choice.

        1. allathian*

          I talk about things with my parents, too. But that’s because they’ve never tried to give me advice about things that they recognize are my choices, certainly not after I had been at college for a year or two.

          I’m in Finland, and here the term “college kid” is an oxymoron. Pretty much everyone is a legal adult when they graduate high school (1 year of compulsory preschool when you’re 6, 6 years of elementary school ages 7-12, 3 years of middle school/junior high 13-16, 3 years of high school/vocational school 17-19). Added to that, tuition is free up to and including a master’s degree, so that students are generally less dependent on their parents for financing their studies. Not completely independent, and wealthy parents do support their adult kids in ways that less wealthy ones can’t, but college students are considered to be adults, and the college/university isn’t even allowed to give out information to parents about the progress or grades of their adult children. Most parents wouldn’t even dream of asking. My parents supported my sister and me by allowing us to live rent-free in an apartment they owned, but we were responsible for paying for utilities, etc. It was a great introduction to things like budgeting.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      I learned very early in my career that my mother had no perspective on the type of work I did or the type of office I worked in and that any career advice she gave me should be taken with a block of salt. Had I listened to her, I’d be working a dead-end job with miserable work-life balance and probably barely above paycheck-to-paycheck living.

      Twenty years into my career, I’m upper management, fairly well-paid with an interesting job at a generally nice place to work. I have a great boss, lovely colleagues, and a strong team. 40 years into her career, she works in a call center and does not believe she can ever afford to retire. (I have tried, gently, over the years, to offer assistance with her getting a better job – she has the raw materials and experience and is capable of it – but she’s not interested, and she’s an adult who can make her own decisions.)

  8. Mrovka*

    PLEASE do not go in with strep. Strep can create serious problems for people with autoimmune disorders. PLEASE do not do that to your colleagues.

    1. Liane*

      Even people without immune disorders can have serious complications from strep or pass it to vulnerable people.

    2. Ann Onymous*

      Yes, this! An illness that’s mild for you may not be mild for someone around you. And people at increased risk of serious complications of common illnesses don’t always “look sick”. So you don’t know who around you is high risk or living with someone who is high risk. A few years ago I spent a night in the hospital and had to change my holiday plans because a coworker came to the office with a “mild” but highly contagious illness.

    3. Global Cat Herder*

      My mother-in-law has permanent heart damage because someone came into work with strep and gave it to her.


      Do not go into work sick. Really don’t go into work sick with something as contagious as strep.

      1. ThatGirl*

        To be fair, if he’d gone to the hospital sooner, he probably would have survived. But you definitely don’t want to mess with strep.

      2. Powerpants*

        That is what I was going to say. You could murder people with strep. Why would you even consider it? What the hell?

      3. All Het Up About It*

        I’ll add to the Strep horror stories – it’s Spooky season.

        My dad nearly died from strep. His throat swelled shut, my mom had to call 911 and then they ended up putting him in a medically induced coma for a few days, so he could be intubated. Oh – and the ER doc tried to send him to a different hospital because they didn’t feel comfortable doing the intubation with the state of his throat. A family friend called in an ENT specialist to come do it and that specialist said he probably would have died in the ambulance if they had sent him away.

        So yeah… Strep is one where you can certainly F around and find out!
        Feel better OP!

    4. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      I’ve had strep throat. It was the sickest I’d ever been, I slept 18+ hours with a fever, etc. And I was young (mid 20’s) and healthy.

      1. Properlike*

        Had strep only twice (knock wood), both times following a plane ride. Like “I Went to School…” it was the sickest I’d ever been. Meanwhile, I taught while sick with (non-contagious) conditions that later required surgery. Any teacher will tell you that sometimes it’s easier to go in than to deal with a sub.

  9. Cbh*

    My mom was the same way. In my family it was nothing malicious just how the previous generation was taught. Save sick and PTO time for emergencies, don’t waste them. Im in my 40s and only in recent years am I realizing that it’s ok to take a sick day or a mental health day outside of a planned vacation. It’s something I still struggle with feeling guilty but at the same time im a lot more relaxed. It took a while for me to find balance and be ok with it.

    1. ferrina*

      This is why I like wfh and unlimited PTO. For me, it eases the burden of constantly monitoring and gauging whether I can take PTO. It means I can be more flexible about taking care of myself and not stressing about whether I should have saved that PTO time. Which makes me much more productive at work.

      As a manager, it also means I can tell my team to take PTO when I can tell they are burning out. They can rest when they need to and not have to sacrifice vacations. It is SO worth it to have a team that is rested, refreshed and ready to be there! It makes the team a lot stronger.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I have mild but very long-lasting migraines (the inspiration for my username), and WFH has been a godsend. When the pain is intense enough that I can’t continue looking at a screen, I can turn off all the lights and lie down for a couple of hours and pick up again when it has receded. Previously, I’d get stuck at work with all the fluorescent lights since I didn’t feel well enough to drive home.

      2. Cbh*

        Wfh full time is my goal. Right now I just started a hybrid position. Next month my training is done so I’ll get a few days from week at home. I hear you love or hate working from home so hybrid is a test for me

    2. OrigCassandra*

      Same and same. I got booster-plus-flu-shotted yesterday and am feeling a bit out of it today, yet having to convince myself to take a half day, even though nothing’s on fire and I have a ton of sick time.

      I will do it. But my brain still forces me to convince myself it’s okay.

    3. Lana Kane*

      My mother was like this (except maybe for the “fear making a single mistake part). She was a woman surrounded by higher-level men and she felt that in order to rise up in the ranks, she had to work 3x as hard. Unfortunately, she wasn’t wrong. I don’t mean to imply that this has gone away, but workplace norms have changed, and OP’s mom is throwing all of her own anxiety onto OP.

  10. Snarkus Aurelius*

    My parents were the exact same way. And you know what that mentality got them?

    They slaved away at jobs until they were too physically decrepit to work anymore. Now they’re too old and physically challenged to enjoy all the money they saved up. They’re too tired to spend time with their grandkids. The only thing they can do is watch 24 cable news networks 14 hours a day, which destroyed their mental health.

    And then my parents have the audacity to criticize me for asking for raises and working from home and choosing to take time off to be with my child and “wasting” money on vacations.

    COVID-19 should have proved that behavior was unhealthy and deadly.

    I’m glad you’re not like that OP. I know how it feels to retrain yourself. Keep at it!

    1. Clobberin' Time*

      Of course they’re criticizing you – if you’re doing these things, then maybe they could have had different lives. If you’re wrong, then their choices were the right ones and they don’t have to feel regret. So corrosive.

    2. Llama*

      No, we survived horrible economic conditions where if you were unreliable, lazy, or generally a mediocre employee there were 5 people waiting to take your place. Economic conditions where every home (except ours) on our street had been foreclosed then empty for years. Working hard kept a roof over our heads.

      1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        Gross, inaccurate, and unnecessarily judgmental reply to someone else’s lived experience.

      2. Hen in a Windstorm*

        Has literally nothing to do with this. What if you were reliable, a go-getter and an excellent employee? Were there not any people waiting to take your place then? Or are you calling yourself lazy? Your justifications are so confusing.

        No one here is talking about not “working hard”. They are talking about taking time off when you are ill. Working when you are sick is not working hard. Taking vacation you have earned is not being lazy. Keeping a roof over your head has nothing to do with your toxic attitude. You are the one who told you this story. Economic conditions are an excuse.

      3. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Well it’s a good thing I’m not unreliable, lazy or mediocre and neither is anyone else who reports to me.

        Working keeps a roof over my head too, but I only work 40 hours a week and it doesn’t hijack my life.

        If you work more than that, you’re working for free.

        What’s that saying? If you work long enough and hard enough, then one day, your boss will be able to buy another vacation home.

    3. turquoisecow*

      I know so many people who are of age to retire and keep working, or retired but went back to work “part-time” because they basically have no idea what to do with themselves outside of work. I had a coworker who worked through chemo treatments because, in her words, if she stayed home she’d just watch crappy tv all day. Using PTO lets you develop interests and hobbies and do things outside of work and be with your family so that when you are ready to retire you can actually relax.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        When I worked at a state agency, we had a handful of people in accounting retire because they had to. They’d hit 45 years of service, and I forgot why they had to retire.

        So…they came back and “volunteered” instead. This went on for months until I found out about it and reported it. HR was not happy!

        Then they left for good.

  11. rage criers unite*

    As a manager I cannot say this enough – DO NOT COME TO WORK IF YOU’RE SICK stay home and get better!

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Co-signed by another manager! I will send sick people home. If they must work (and I’d rather they use their PTO go get some rest – in my experience, those who power through it just tend to get sicker and be out longer), they need to do it FAR AWAY from their coworkers.

      Someone came in sick once and took out almost an entire specialized team that all sit in the same area. You know what’s worse than having ONE person out sick? Having ALL the people out sick.

      I work for an organization that provides ample PTO, subsidized health insurance, an EAP that includes assistance finding medical providers with immediate openings, and FMLA. It’s not just for show – we pay for that, use it.

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      Double co-signed!!!
      And don’t go grocery shopping or run errands either. No one needs those germs!

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Let me add the caveat of don’t go to the grocery store if you have options….I remember once I had to go to the store when I was younger and pretty sick – but I lived on my own, and I needed food and a prescription filled. I just masked and kept my distance as best as I could. You do the best you can with what you have.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      It’s true that some members of older generations

      Alison said “some” (emphasis mine) and did not use the word “boomer”.

      Let’s save outrage for when it’s actually required.

      1. ?*

        I didn’t read any outrage, and the OP specifically makes a generational generalization. I do think it’s worth reiterating what Alison says because a lot of internet spaces tend to use “boomer” as an all-purpose term for people doing things a certain way. And I say that as a millennial.

      1. Not Today, Satan*

        I’m not referring to Alison, I’m referring to the OP.

        “I think boomer parents can instill some very unhealthy values in their kids surrounding work.”

    2. Spearmint*

      I’m normally against generational stereotypes, but this one does match my experience. Boomers are much more likely to have an overly deferential, almost fearful attitude toward work and taking time off. Yes, Not All Boomers, but all the people I have heard say things like “go into work even when sick or you’ll be fired” or “don’t negotiate higher pay because they’ll rescind the offer” or “work late to impress the boss” have been older.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Bosses really did act like this more ubiquitously at one point, and the mindset about the relationship between life and work has really changed drastically over the years – maybe never so rapidly than in the last three years. Point being there is a generation of people who were more likely to encounter this survivalist mindset in their jobs, and they are passing it on to their children. Not because they’re toxic, but because this is their experience and they genuinely want their children to succeed.

        Now different parents may communicate this in ways that are better or worse, not here to defend any individual dynamics. But when we make the generational generalizations we’re acknowledging that people who lived and worked in a different time had, on average, a different life experience.

      2. Not Today, Satan*

        And in contrast, my experience has been different to yours. Again, generalizations help no one.

      3. Observer*

        I’m normally against generational stereotypes, but this one does match my experience.

        So? It’s just not true that this is a “boomer” thing. There are many Boomers who don’t have this kind of attitude and plenty of non-boomers who DO have these attitudes.

        Walk into any school and a huge swath of medical, retail and / or eateries to see these attitudes in play.

    3. pcake*

      I’m a boomer. When I was managing a club, if someone called to say they were sick, I’d tell them to stay home and feel better, and if they came in sick, I sent them home.

  12. Aurion*

    Sometimes parents give terrible, awful advice. This is one of those times. OP, listen to Alison, do not listen to your mom.

    For the record, on the rare occasion my mom opines about my work, I wholeheartedly ignore her because her suggestions are almost always combative and thus terrible.

    1. Gracely*

      Yeah. It’s not that parents always give bad advice; it’s that part of becoming an adult is learning what advice they’re good at giving and what advice they’re not good at. It’s also learning that your parents are likely to have trouble believing that you can be an expert in something that they have a very different idea of.

      My mom has great advice in her field of entrepreneurial work, in art, in cooking, in DIY home repair, and several other things. She does not have good advice in dating or in academic settings (as work or school). I don’t discuss most stuff related to those last two things with her, because she won’t listen to me anyway.

      1. ferrina*

        Well said!

        I’ve reached the point where I’ve surpassed my mom on work advice. She’s amazing at her job, but I’ve got a better understanding of business and employment in general (in no small part thanks to AAM). I tell her things after that fact, because she’ll find fault with it before hand (but doesn’t tend to argue with results)

  13. TootsNYC*

    >>* Vacation time is a benefit that you’ve earned, just like wages or health insurance.

    LW’s mom actually lived that proof!
    They made her take the time, or else they’d give her the money.
    If that’s not proof that your vacation time BELONGS TO YOU BY RIGHT, just as much as your salary does, I don’t know what is!

    So interesting that even with this very clear, direct, personal experience of that, Mom still lives in fear.

    1. Phony Genius*

      I wonder if the LW’s mother had one of those bad bosses who doesn’t care what HR has to say, and wants things done their way. The “HR is not your supervisor, I am” mentality. In some companies, HR is not even empowered to step into matters like this. At such companies, HR can tell you that you have to take the time off, your supervisor can refuse to approve the time off, and all HR will say is “you can’t take the time off without your supervisor’s approval.”

      Or, maybe she just assumed her boss was that way. (As I recall, many old 1950’s & 60’s TV shows regularly portrayed bosses this way. Maybe this is where some people formed such assumptions.)

  14. Another glorious Morning*

    Not sure if you live with your parents… but stop telling them you are sick.

    Do not tell them you are taking vacation.

    If they ask why, be honest!

    “Sorry Mom and Dad but honestly you have given me a lot of grief for wanting to take vacation and/or sick time. So I just didn’t bring it up.”

    Some times parents need this honesty in order to change their behaviors!

  15. SJPxo*

    OP do not listen to you Mum, I went in to work after I snapped my wrist (and had it put back in the right place) with a cast on after 3 days cause my Boss was going to Australia for 3 weeks and my Mum forced me and I ended up snapped the tendon in my hand as it rubbed over the fracture site and now I have a thumb that cannot function the same anymore without surgery and I ended up having to get it pinned and plated cause the fracture moved cause I should have been resting.
    She’s hoodwinking you and it’s not normal

      1. SJPxo*

        Thank you! I was lot younger and the pressure I felt I had to but since then I stand my ground as it’s had irreversible consequences. Poor OP I really feel for her as the older generation definitely do think like this and it’s very damaging and outdated

  16. higheredadmin*

    I had a boss when I worked in a bank who would come in sick as a dog and was always so proud of himself for never taking a sick day, even if all he did was sit in his office with his head on his desk. Fever, coughs, whatever. About 3/4 of the staff in that office were on temp contracts, so they would then all get sick and then have to miss work days (because they didn’t have an office, just a cube in an open-plan space), and because they were temps they wouldn’t get paid for however many days they were out. It used to make me so angry.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Is it the perfect attendance certificates in grade schools that ingrained this weird behavior into people? There’s nothing to be proud of in not taking care of your physical health and setting a bad example for others.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          My mother hated perfect attendance awards. She knew it just meant people were sending their kids to school sick.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            As a teacher, I also consider it something of a cop-out. It’s a way for school to seem like they are doing something to improve attendance, but…it’s only improving things on paper. In reality, it is doing nothing at all to support students who are struggling to attend school, whether because they have problems at home that are keeping them away or are being bullied and are scared to come in or have learning difficulties or something like ADHD that means school is difficult for them or have an anxiety disorder and find school stressful or whatever the real issue is.

            It just means that now you have these students still missing the same number of days AND the students who are GOOD attenders coming in when they are sick and really SHOULDN’T be in. But on paper, the two problems seem to cancel each other out, so it looks like a good thing.

            Honestly, in addition to the causing people to come in sick issue, it’s just incredibly naive to think that a kid with learning difficulties who is struggling to keep up with his or her class and who is possibly being bullied and called “stupid” because they can’t manage the same schoolwork the other kids do and who may have little encouragement to go to school at home for whatever reason is going to be motivated to attend school by the idea of getting a cert. “I’m going to be bullied and have to do work I find incredibly difficult and there’s probably that one teacher who will refuse to accept I can’t do the work and yell at me for being lazy when I’m not, but hey, I’ll get a cert, so I’d better go.” Not likely to happen. Or a kid who is really worried about a sick family memeber and doesn’t want to go to school because they are afraid of what will happen while they are away.

            1. higheredadmin*

              I think the focus on “sick days” and attendance at work is kind of similar – a way to look like you are dealing with an issue without really managing it. If you have someone who is *always* out sick, that is an issue that probably should involve HR and a lot of careful management. Folks taking sick days when they are sick, which is something that is going to happen, should not be penalized.

              1. londonedit*

                Yeah, it’s the mentality that you can’t give people the benefit of the doubt just in case someone might abuse it. Same with working from home – there are still plenty of bosses who believe that anyone who works from home is automatically slacking off and watching TV in their pyjamas all day, so they insist on everyone coming to the office just so they can physically watch them working. They can’t bear the idea that someone might possibly abuse a generous sick leave policy, so they treat everyone like children and create a culture where people are afraid to take a sick day in case they end up on some sort of disciplinary procedure. Whereas what should actually happen is that *if* an individual is found to be abusing sick leave, or *if* there’s a pattern of people constantly being off sick, that’s the thing to investigate and deal with on a case-by-case basis.

        2. Esmeralda*

          I hate the school perfect attendance certificate, or what I prefer to call “very fortunate to have good health certificate”.

          Or the “My parents don’t care if the other kids get sick certificate”

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Yup – I was absolutely disgusted that my younger kids school went straight back to perfect attendance awards when they went back in person in 2021…….yeah, Covid was still a thing, but let’s incentivize kids trying to come to school sick and getting classmates sick to get a piece of paper…………

            1. Properlike*

              We got a letter from my elementary district’s superintendent lecturing us about perfect attendance, when my kids had been out 12 times in a single semester. On the back there were “helpful tips” for being on time for and attending school. The tone was very “you’re being irresponsible about education.”

              I’m a teacher. The kids were straight-A students. And we’d happened to have 1) the flu, and 2) multiple immediate relatives die in quick succession that required us to leave town (which the teachers and principal knew about.)

              Nothing in the letter about that situation. I did ask the superintendent to point it out if I’d missed it.

          2. Quinalla*

            I’m so glad they don’t do this BS at my kids’ schools. I hated it when I was a kid as I never missed school unless I was sick and then of course I stayed home usually two times a year it happened. People that did get them were people like me who were also lucky or who went to school sick and got others sick, either way should not be rewarded and definitely not encouraging anyone to go to school sick.

          3. Pyjamas*

            This 1000%. I would look at the kids receiving perfect attendance awards and think, that’s who spread last winter’s nasty virus.

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I actually had a sane principal in elementary school – she forbade perfect attendance and “golden alarm clock” awards. She felt they were unfair to people whose parents worked different shifts or had chronic illnesses. She was amazing, and nobody crossed her ever – because she was the sweetest person and the best advocate a school could ask for. She also got that LIFE happens, and she wanted to model for all of us that the same was true for us.

          (Golden alarm clock awards are what that district called the No Tardies award.)

        4. Adrian*

          Actually, my high school considered perfect attendance awards an embarrassment. So if nothing else, people would report to homeroom late just once, to ensure they wouldn’t get the award!

        5. Oska*

          I have spent my share of school days just being present, but unable to pay attention, learn or participate. As long as I could sit up in a chair, I wouldn’t lose any precious Good Girl points by having imperfect attendance. Such a load of BS, in retrospect. Sitting in a chair and staring at the wall isn’t good enough for my employer, even if it was good enough in school.

          I don’t even have to be bedridden to be useless at work; I tried to work through covid (from home, obviously) because I didn’t think my symptoms were all that severe. (The Good Girl has grown up a bit, but still has a ways to go it seems.) I made multiple mistakes before I realised that my brain was too foggy to deliver the quality that was expected.

    1. SanguineOtter*

      There was a manager in my office who would brag about how many people she made sick. She would stand outside the cube row and point to each cube ‘I made him sick and her sick and him sick’. We had unlimited sick time and an environment that encouraged you to take it!

      1. Observer*

        There was a manager in my office who would brag about how many people she made sick.

        And no one in authority had a problem with that?

        We had unlimited sick time and an environment that encouraged you to take it!

        I have to wonder about the environment. Because not only did this person keep coming in sick – No one did anything about it, nor about her BOASTING about it.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        WT actual F? I’d imagine I would have ended up in HR after I told her that sort of selfish and immature behavior was nothing to brag about in front of all those people she was pointing at. And then I’d have turned her in to HR. My current head of HR would have absolutely lost her shit at that.

      3. Chauncy Gardener*

        Reminds me of an old boss who would come in sick “but it’s just a cold!” Then I would get sick and it would turn into pneumonia and I’d be out for weeks due to my weak lungs.
        “But it was just a cold!” he’d say. Sure, dummy. And when I get a cold, it 100% of the time turns into pneumonia.
        Thanks a bunch.

  17. Tau*

    “be convinced they will fire you for making a mistake” is awe-inspiringly terrible advice. Because not only does this lead to you become risk-averse and quadruple-checking everything, which may not actually be what your boss wants, but under this worldview it makes perfect sense to try to hide any mistakes which you do make.

    Good workplaces will not fire you for making a mistake. But they will fire you for that.

    1. ferrina*

      Yep! Plenty of workplaces need you to be creative and take initiative, which you can’t do if you’re terrified of making mistakes. I’ve had to coach several employees into not being terrified of mistakes- it’s a long process, and it’s awful. It eats up so much time, and it means that they are scared to share good ideas or try something new (even when their new idea is SO much better than the old way!)

      I’ve noticed that when I’m terrified in the workplace, I do a much worse job than when I’m comfortable and confident. It’s not that I don’t care about mistakes, but I understand that experimentation is necessary for progress, and sometimes experiments fail. And humans make mistakes- it’s part of the trade-off for having all the amazing parts of humans.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yesterday I became frustrated and defensive over a simple miscommunication. It took me a minute to realize that’s because if the same thing had happened two jobs ago, it would have counted against my performance rating (which was used to decide whether or not you would be let go).

        While I was stuck in that anxious state, I couldn’t move forward. As soon as I let go of that old fear, I was able to come up with ways to improve communication around that step of the business process.

    2. soontoberetired*

      yes, something I tell new hires all the time. Own up to your mistakes, learn why it was a mistake, and now to prevent something similar happening again. Because hidden mistakes will become known eventually, and you will face consequences.

      1. Dinwar*

        I had to give a safety briefing to a new person onsite today, and this came up. I was able to give two separate occasions in the past year where someone tried to hide a screwup and is no longer allowed to work on our site (we can’t fire people, but we can refuse to give them work). Honest mistakes happen, that’s part of life, and we have systems to deal with them. Hide mistakes and you’re out.

    3. Meep*

      My former manager was always threatening to fire me. It didn’t matter if she was assigning me a task (of hers) for the first time or talking about how her boss was annoyed with someone else (usually her), she would work it into the conversation as a scare tactic. Mind you, she had ACTUALLY been fired from every job she had held in the past 40 years (including this one), but after a while, I just stopped caring. Not telling her things because she would blow up at me became kind of pointless when she was going to scream at me for her f*ck-ups anyway.

      The biggest piece of advice I can give is firing is not the end of the world and not the scariest thing. I mean, look at her. With the exception of two jobs she managed to last 5 years at, she averaged 14 months at a job for her entire adult life and STILL managed to be very successful.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      Actually, that kind of mentality LEADS me to make mistakes. And really, REALLY dumb ones, the mistakes that make you wonder “what on earth was she THINKING?” Because I get so freaked out that I could be wrong that I start second guessing myself and end up convincing myself I was supposed to do something other than what I was actually told to do. I remember failing an Irish test when I was 13 over this. Our Irish teacher was TERRIFYING and I started panicking I’d misread one of the questions and maybe it meant something different than I thought it did, then answered as if it meant the second thing, even though I was 90% sure of the correct meaning.

      And yup, hiding mistakes tends NOT to end well. I mentioned before how one year, a Leaving Cert. exam had to be postponed to the following Saturday, leading to consternation all round and the reason was that one examiner somewhere in the country had handed out the wrong exam by accident. Now, the system is prepared for stuff like that; mistakes happen and had he sent a student with a message to the principal to ring the Department of Education and let them know what had happened, the back up exam would have been sent out to all schools and nobody would have been any the wiser (and the kids in that school who saw the next day’s paper would probably have been a little confused when it turned out to be completely different).

      But instead, he kept it to himself and the Department only found out that evening when the students started blabbing about the paper on social media. At that point, they weren’t sure the papers would arrive to all schools in time for the exam the next morning and the exam had to be rearranged. This meant every Leaving Cert. student (equivalent of high school senior) having to change their plans, a lot of their parents have to drive them to school a different day, etc, all the supervisers had to work on a Saturday, heck some kids might have had Saturday jobs and their shifts would have had to be covered by somebody else.

      So yeah, you REALLY don’t want people so scared that they try to hide mistakes. It tends to lead to much bigger issues.

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, I think maybe for a small group of people, like LW’s mom, thinking like this is really motivating? But for the vast majority of people, this makes folks do way worse at their jobs.

    5. Dona Florinda*

      A few months ago I screwed up badly at work. I told my boss about it, and she helped me fix the problem. Then, the next day, she called me out of the blue and I was sure I was going to be fired over said mistake. When boss started talking about something completely unrelated, I asked if the call wasn’t about the screw up. She looked very surprised and responded: “you made a mistake, came forward with it, and worked hard to correct it. There’s nothing more to be said about it”.

      Her reaction encouraged me to work harder, and better, than any fear-of-being-fired ever will.

    6. Ace in the Hole*

      People have mentioned workplaces that want a certain level of creative risk-taking and initiative will not fire you for a single mistake… but I just want to say that the same is true for jobs that require following rigid procedures without much creative independence.

      I work in a job where we have a lot of strict procedures to follow for safety or legal reasons. Mistakes here can be very serious – literally life or death. People still make mistakes, because people are human. We know this. When it happens, we review the incident to see if the employee needs additional support to prevent it from happening again (more training, resources/equipment, fewer tasks, etc). But no one is fired or even formally disciplined for a single mistake! People only get fired if there is a pattern of mistakes that doesn’t improve with coaching, or if they do something intentional like lying about what happened.

      Ironically, fear of consequences from mistakes makes people more likely to get in trouble for them. I’ve seen people try to cover up mistakes by lying or hiding them because they’re afraid they’ll be fired… which means when it’s eventually discovered they DO get in trouble, not for the original mistake but for hiding it.

  18. Heidi*

    This is an interesting letter. Is the OP deciding whether or not to go in? Or have they decided and want to be validated? If so, did they go in or not? It’s kind of disappointing that people still can’t get onboard with the idea of not getting other people sick.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      Obviously, I can’t speak for the LW but my guess would be that they stayed home and they want to know for the future whether their mother has a point and they should be wary of taking any more time off.

  19. ZSD*

    My mother, who has never worked in an office, has given me *so much* poor career advice that I’ve had to ignore.
    I wish there were an AAM “Am I giving good advice to my kids?” feature where we make parents write in with all the career advice they’ve given their kids, and then Alison tells them which advice is sound and which is terrible.
    (I realize this wouldn’t work in practice, but it’s fun to imagine.)

    1. ecnaseener*

      I feel like there was an open thread or something with that theme? Not with Alison specifically answering everything, but it’s ringing a bell. Or else just a comment section dove into it on a letter about parental advice.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      I recently gave my daughter some career advice. She is a store director for a grocery chain, and very young for that role — 25. There is a merger in the works with her company and another large grocery company, and she’s not quite sure what’s going to happen. She’s currently halfway through a 2 year assignment running a store in a city that she absolutely hates, but the cost of living is low, she got a huge raise when she got promoted, and she is socking away every extra penny to save up for a down payment on a house.

      I told her to give it some time and see how things start to shake out, but if it looks like things are going to turn to sh*t, then to not be afraid to evaluate her options and start putting out feelers. Even if she gets an offer somewhere else, she doesn’t have to take it. And I told her to carefully consider any counteroffers she might get if she does decide to accept another role, because quite often it’s a temporary solution to a permanent problem. It’s not a hard and fast rule that you should always decline a counteroffer, but quite often it is.

    3. Parcae*

      Apologies for this serious response to a jokey comment, but several years ago I convinced my mom to start reading AAM, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Mom’s last job search was in 1974, yet we can still have sensible conversations about what Alison would say about mine. A miracle.

  20. The Gnome*

    I literally sent the link to this article to my 66 year old mother with the message “Thank you for never being like the mother described in this letter” attached.

    Although if my mother had been able to bank more of her PTO, I’m sure she would have loved to do so, especially with two kids and a on-and-off-sick husband; she was a court reporter and that’s an awfully difficult job to even accrue PTO with if you’re working for a city courthouse with a boss that could easily have been the subject of multiple AAM letters themselves.

    Luckily, not Mom’s problem as of January 2020: she surprised the heck out of her horrible boss by retiring a year early. As of today, per what Mom’s heard from friends that still work there, Horrible Boss is the reason they’ve not been able to fill Mom’s spot and they’ve started using tape recorders instead of a 3rd reporter, leading to a noticeable downswing in transcription quality. Cue Mom and I cackling evilly at the karmic retribution.

      1. The Gnome*

        Yup. Multiple complaints about the quality since Mom’s been retired, and on top of that, scandal in the DA’s office running rampant.

        I’ve been joking for nearly 3 years that Mom was the only thing keeping that place from imploding, because as soon as she retired, it all went heckwards.

      1. The Gnome*

        I’m texting her before work and she’s reading the article and comments, and she says thank you!

  21. Justin*

    My last job said the right things but if it was crunch time they’d give me the side eye if I took a sick day (and I rarely do, am lucky to rarely be ill). They never STOPPED me, but it was a weird vibe.

    And they were terrible employers. My current job, I often choose to do remote stuff if I’m home sick (bc I’m usually functional), but I have that option. Do NOT go in! (And don’t offer to do remote stuff if you’re feeling bad, just saying that a company that treats you well – and there’s no indication from the letter that yours doesn’t – is one where I don’t mind typing up stuff at home, entirely because I hate falling behind my own goals.)

    1. Ama*

      Yeah, I had a previous job where the managers were fine with any sick leave I took, but the coworker who had to cover for me when I was out would fuss and send me indignant messages about how I had to tell her when I was going to be sick and for how long (she once tried to insist I had to arrange for my own temp when I had a bad case of the flu and missed the better part of a week — funny as soon as I said “ask boss, I’m sure if it’s that much work to cover for me they’ll let you train a temp” she dropped that issue).

      I thought I had done a good job ignoring her but it took me YEARS at my next job to stop feeling nervous any time I had to call out for a second day in a row.

      Now that I’m primarily remote I basically base sick days on, if I sit at my desk all day will I be able to get an average amount of work done? If the answer is no, I call out.

  22. Gigi*

    Oof. Sounds like mom has some unresolved trauma. All the advice about setting boundaries is spot-on. And also it’s never too late for even a parent to get therapy. It makes me sad that she lives this way.

    1. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      Unresolved trauma…such a good way of phrasing that. I see my own mom in the LW’s mom, and makes me sad.

  23. Annoyed*

    I have a friend like this. She is terrified to take days off. We encouraged her to take a mental health day. She was too afraid to take one bc what if her boss called to check on her and she was fired.

    Not once in my adult life has a boss called to check on me if I called in sick.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      I’m not even sure if my boss called me, when I was out due to a dislocated knee cap, which due to my own behavior turned into a bad leg and a broken jaw. (of course that was many, many years ago.)

    2. Dust Bunny*

      My boss called me once because I was very late–I had been in a fender-bender but of course it was the one day ever I left my cell phone at home–but it wasn’t to fire me, it was just to see if I was OK.

    3. ferrina*

      I’ve had a boss question whether I was sick. It sucked. They were having staffing issues, so their strategy was to bully the person that was reliable (i.e., me). All it did was teach me to lie to them

      1. NotWorkingForFree*

        Same ex boss as in another comment, went to the HOSPITAL to check that one of my coworkers was actually admitted when she had appendicitis (or something similar) rather than just accepting her call out.

    4. NotWorkingForFree*

      I had a job I hated and a boss I hated. I was driving in one day, just dreading having to face the day. I pulled off the road, called my boss, coughed and hacked, told her I was much to sick to work, and drove home.

      Interestingly, turns out when I don’t hate my boss or my job, I get (actually physically) sick less often, and feel much less likely to turn around halfway there and go home. Who knew?

  24. Michelle Smith*

    As a person who gets literally every infection her coworkers have ever brought into the office, please for the love of everything STAY THE HECK HOME WHEN YOU’RE ILL. I’m stunned this has to be said in 2022 after 2+ years of COVID. Your mom is encouraging you to risk the health and safety of your colleagues. That’s WRONG. You did the right thing by questioning her absolutely awful advice. (Not trying to be mean here or insult your mom at all. Her advice is horrifyingly bad, but I am not making a larger statement about her character.)

    1. anxiousGrad*

      Ugh yeah. I’ve been sick for the past two weeks now because a bunch of people came into work while they were sick and then we had an all day seminar. And I have asthma so it’s really hard for me to recover from colds (and I usually get a sinus infection afterwards, which seems to have happened again this time).

  25. Jennifer Strange*

    I’m really sorry your mom felt she had to work like that. Whatever the reason, she should never have been made to feel that way. Please don’t fall into the same trap.

  26. LocalFlightEast*

    Telling someone not to use all their PTO is akin to telling them not to use all of their salary in my book.
    It is part of your compensation package

      1. Anothergloriusmorning*

        I worked somewhere that gave a generous vacation package. To the point that most people couldn’t really use most of it in a year. The CEO threatened to take some of it away because no one would take it. He said it made the company look bad to the board.

        For the love people take your frickin vacation!

  27. Hills to Die on*

    And if you need antibiotics but you don’t like taking them, stay home then too. Even if you can work. For the same reason. Bite me, Ashleigh.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          Aw, aren’t you “sweet”. Nobody asked you so “feel free” to keep “scrolling”!

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      I’m guessing Ashleigh is a coworker of Hills who got sick, refused to take the antibiotics, went to work, and got Hills sick (making them justifiably PO-ed).

    2. Liane*

      Important public service announcement:
      Learn from my experience. If you are on antibiotics & stop taking them* tell your practitioner so they can get you on another one ASAP! I stopped one because it made me sick and didn’t tell the nurse practitioner until my ear infection rebounded. The ONLY time I was sicker was when I had sepsis.
      (But I didn’t go to work sick.)

      *allergic reaction or severe side effects are good ones

  28. NotAManager*

    I had a supervisor who would harangue people about taking sick time unless we were literally throwing up at work because any other claims of illness were harder to “prove,” especially fevers. Mom’s not off-base that some employers will make your life miserable for missing any amount of work. Where the nuance comes in is discerning whether this is the case in your current workplace.

    1. Girasol*

      My thoughts exactly! In Mom’s day and still today there are bosses who think every sick call is the sign of a lazy malingerer. Any request to take earned PTO is a sign that this employee is not loyal like the one whose PTO bank is overflowing with years’ worth of unused days. I agree with Alison’s advice, though, and add that if your manager is such an inhumane throwback, you should consider moving on anyway. Just don’t slang Mom too hard. She’s probably worked somewhere awful.

    2. Purple Cat*

      I’d argue that the nuance though isn’t in “whether or not you should call in sick”, it’s in discerning “you are in a toxic workplace, GET OUT”.

  29. Toodie*

    My Mom’s Dad always told her to be sure she’d finished all her work by the end of the day. Trouble is, he was a road supervisor 70 years ago. My Mom’s job didn’t work that way, and my job doesn’t work that way. Sometimes advice–even if it is well-intentioned–just doesn’t work for your situation.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I’ve seen that in one of my own (young) coworkers! Her previous job was one where you had daily tasks that got done every day, this job is one where tasks come into your inbox at an unpredictable rate and most don’t need to be done same day. She asked me after a few months how I managed to empty my inbox every day, and I was like “…I don’t? We don’t have to.” She was so stressed about it for no reason until that clicked!

    2. ferrina*

      Oh wow. If I did that, I would never go home.

      Worst advice I’ve gotten: Always tell your boss and co-workers when you think they are wrong or doing something stupid, and never keep your opinion to yourself. My dad told me that, and he’s been fired 3 times (for being difficult to work with).

        1. ferrina*

          He’s figured out that he’s not good at working with other people, so all his jobs in the last decade have been either time-limited contracts or short-term (except one part time job, that he just stopped talking about one day).

          He’s a generally toxic person though. He’s charismatic and charming when he wants to be, but he can only keep it up for a few hours at a time. He’s also noticed that his most successful and functional children are also the ones that barely speak to him (very low contact) and live on the other side of the country. He’s not dumb; definitely toxic.

  30. Cat Tree*

    Ugh, I hate this attitude. I’m a manager of people who are usually new to the 9-5 workforce and I always have this specific conversation early on. Firing will never come as a surprise. It’s so much easier for me as a manager to work with them on (hypothetical) issues than to fire them and start over from scratch with the hiring process.

  31. Veryanon*

    Please don’t come to work if you are sick, especially in this post-COVID world. Not only should you take the time you need to rest and recover, but no one wants you to share your germs with others.

  32. Heather*

    Honestly I think this kind of mindset is outdated in multiple ways, because our jobs are not the same as they were in our parents’ time (for one, we aren’t making enough money nor can we have a partner at home caring for kids and the house) but more importantly, this mindset doesn’t take into consideration people with autoimmune diseases, chronic conditions, disabilities, and loved ones we care for with them. People didn’t think about how coming in sick would harm others. But nowadays, we need to because those groups are fighting to no longer be ignored by the culture at large.

    So yeah, like others have said, do not take this advice to heart. Rest when you need to. Don’t sit on all your PTO. Take care of yourself and also be considerate of others who may not be able to fight off an infection as easily as you might.

  33. Esmeralda*

    Vacation time: I’ve always kept a chunk of annual leave in reserve, but that’s because I spent a lot of years with a very very sick child and I did not want to go on leave without pay (had to do that anyway a couple of times — very very sick child).

    Kid has been healthy for a few years, so I’ve been using my leave a lot more freely. For instance, taking a whole morning when I have a haircut so that I can sleep in a bit, go out for coffee. Taking an afternoon here and there to do something fun. Three or four day weekends.

    And as everyone else has said: please please please, we beg of you, do NOT come to work sick.

    1. higheredadmin*

      Same. I’m always holding a reserve of sick days to use for sick kids. The ability to work from home more has made this easier (as has kids being older), but the habit remains.

  34. Dust Bunny*


    1) You need to rest.
    2) We don’t want your germs.
    3) Everybody in my department has close relatives who are higher-risk (elderly, chronically ill, very young, etc.) so we doubly don’t want your germs because they’re a danger to our own families.

    I’ve worked places that were terrible about giving PTO at all and/or actually letting you use it, so I know that some places make this really hard, but if your workplace is not one of those then use your medical time and stay home. (My current workplace is both generous with medical time and insistent that we use it when we’re unwell, thank goodness.)

  35. Bernice Clifton*

    LW, if you live with your mom – move out if you can and if you don’t, do not talk to her about work at ALL.

    Even if you’re calling in sick because you’re hungover or you stayed up all night watching YouTube videos (I don’t recommend this), you get to do that as an adult. Your mom doesn’t get to decide if you are sick enough to stay home anymore like you’re still in school.

    1. CR*

      Yes, exactly. Why are you even giving your mom the chance to tell you that you need to go to work when you’re sick?

    2. Observer*

      LW, if you live with your mom – move out if you can and if you don’t, do not talk to her about work at ALL.

      That was my first thought.

  36. Will "scifantasy" Frank*

    My mom once told me that what she does, and what I should do, is “go into work every single day convinced they are going to fire you if you make a mistake.”

    Hello, recipe for lifelong anxiety and paranoia.

  37. Dona Florinda*

    My dad was 52 when he took his first sick day EVER. Not long after that, his employer let him go with a feeble severance check, claiming that it was just cheaper for them to pay two less exeperienced people to do his job. Because of his age, he had trouble finding another job. His allegiance to his former employer (and the working world in general) magically disappeared after that.

  38. Gnome*

    My boomer dad was in sales. So, if he wasn’t working, it impacted income at least for the company. We didn’t vacation a lot, but we definitely took a few week+ trips over the years as a family. My mom was in IT (waaaaaay back then) and she would drive us to various relatives for a week about once a year.

    So, it is definitely not just a boomer thing. It is toxic thinking. If you find yourself in a place that behaves that way (they do exist), it’s a sign to Get Out Now.

  39. Mim*

    “No decent manager — no even halfway decent manager — wants you fearing that you’ll be fired if you make a single mistake. (To the contrary, in many cases good managers want you to feel safe enough to experiment and take reasonable risks.) Decent managers know that fearful employees are less creative, less engaged, and less candid.”

    So much this. Maybe it’s because I’m not a manager, but I think about this most often in the context of being a parent. Especially as someone raised by boomers, in a time and place where perfection and competition and high achievement were the gold standard. I’m trying to hard to unlearn all that stuff and raise my kid to be comfortable and unafraid to talk to me about mistakes. If there are no mistakes, yes there are. They’re just being hidden. Having to figure stuff out on your own without support and guidance is a great way to make bigger and bigger mistakes, and take even longer to figure out how to avoid or fix them. Nope. I will have none of that toxicity. Not at work or at home. We can do so much better for our teams and our families by just admitting that we are humans, and communicating without fear.

    1. Mim*

      And to clarify on the generational thing, it’s definitely not just a boomer thing. In fact, the parent that primarily raised me wasn’t like that at all. But it’s hard to avoid that thing completely if you are surrounded by it elsewhere else. It was just in the air when I was growing up, and definitely feels connected to a certain time period to some extent. Obviously, that kind of thinking isn’t gone completely. But I can tell how different things are, especially in terms of how the schools my child has been in deal with imperfections of all sorts compared to how they were handled when I was a kid. I grew up with so much fear of authority. I get to see my kid grow up with respect, which is not the same as fear.

    2. Observer*

      Especially as someone raised by boomers, in a time and place where perfection and competition and high achievement were the gold standard.

      You mean, more than now, when parents seem to think that if they don’t do things PERFECTLY their children will be doomed? And that if their child ever is unhappy for ONE MINUTE or gets ONE not great grade this is a MAJOR catastrophe and “proves” that they are terrible parents or their kid’s teacher / friend / whoever is a TERRIBLE person?

      Yes, I’m exaggerating, but not by much.

  40. sequitur*

    My dad was like this; he had walking pneumonia one year and took a grand total of half a day off work to go the doctor and get diagnosed with pneumonia. Then he went right back to work. I carried that attitude with me through the early years of my career, until a conversation where a coworker reacted with horror (rather than the pat on the back for my sound values I was expecting) and I realised the impact on everyone else was more important than living the way my dad thought was right.

    I wonder if this is less a generational thing and more a perfectionist culture thing. Both my dad and I were raised in households where love was conditional upon meeting high-bar parental & authority figure expectations and this feels like an extension of that mentality in some ways.

    1. Observer*

      I wonder if this is less a generational thing and more a perfectionist culture thing

      I think you are right.

    2. irene adler*

      The CFO here did exactly as your dad when she had walking pneumonia. You could hear her coughing away all day long. She insisted that she was on meds, felt fine (except for the coughing) and would restrict her travels to her office and the restroom. Her words sure didn’t allay things for anyone.

  41. ZK*

    Many years ago as an assistant manager in retail, I had to go to work with strep. Minimal staff (manager on vacation and no other keyed person able to work during the day), combined with no sick pay and little job security all combined to have me at work. I was utterly miserable for days. I still wonder all these years later how many people got sick as a result of coming in to contact with me.

    We need to normalize paid sick time for everyone and encourage people to actually take it (and staff the business so that they can take it).

  42. ABCYaBye*

    Sick – DO NOT GO IN. I once told my team that if they have a fever, they can’t come in. Period. We can cover whatever is needed so they can get better. Spend that time getting well! Plus, if you’re ill, you risk the health of your coworkers, which potentially puts your employer in an even more precarious position if one person infects three and then more of a team is missing. Not to mention those who have children or other family members living with them. If someone is out for a couple of days because a sick coworker came in and infected them, they may have to be out even longer because they exposed others in their home, too, and have to be home with them.

    PTO – take your vacation time! I’m a parent and fully appreciate and embrace holding onto a few days just in case something comes up with one of my kids. But you’ve earned the time, so feel free to use it as you see fit, within reasonable parameters that your employer may set. But the health benefits that come with taking time away are things we don’t talk about enough.

    LW, I’m sorry that your mom has set such a poor example for you. But it sounds like you’re definitely questioning her advice about this. Continue to do so. She’s incorrect in all of this!

  43. Devil*

    “ go into work every single day convinced they are going to fire you if you make a mistake.””

    Okay that’s called an “undiagnosed anxiety disorder” and trust me, that is no way to live your life! (Ask me how I know).

  44. NYanon*

    I’m so sorry, OP–and I hope that Alison’s response got to you quickly enough that it spurred you to stay home!

    My mom is similar, although I don’t think it stems so much from her work life as her general people-pleasing tendencies. When I was 23 and living at home to save money for my own place, I was working in an office job that I had only started a few months earlier. I had been seeing a doc for a weird rash/apparent bug bite that no one knew what to make of, and then I came down with a fever and exhaustion that was so bad I really had trouble getting out of bed.

    I told my mother I was calling in sick and the first thing she said to me was, “Will they be mad at you?”

    A day or two later, when my condition was no better, I ended up being hospitalized and put on IV antibiotics for presumed Lyme disease (I had tested negative for it but they ruled everything else out and the treatment did help).

    And yes, I’m 45 years old now and I’m still kind of annoyed about it, although my mom did take good care of me and of course did not say anything else about work after that first comment.

    But clearly your mom and my mom have some issues! So it’s good that you are seeking advice elsewhere.

    I hope you are getting rest and feeling better from your strep.

  45. Avril Ludgateaux*

    * Most employers do not want you coming in with strep throat and a fever and infecting the rest of your team! (There are some exceptions to that, but those exceptions are terrible employers that you don’t want to work for.)

    Oh boy are they ever. My first full-time professional job after college was in such a toxic workplace. One of the things that clued me in, early on, was during one of our mandatory daily(!) morning full-staff meetings, a manager bragged about the time she had the worst flu, but she still dragged herself into the office, and wouldn’t you know, everybody got sick, and we all still came in, and ha ha it’s so funny how that happened, but look how devoted we are! Note this was like a year after H1N1 (I don’t even want to think about how they have handled COVID!). She followed up with a mention of a time her 13-year-old daughter had attempted to end her own life, and how it was very hard on her and her family, but she still came in to work and powered through it because what we do is so important. (Hint: it wasn’t. We were middlemen-to-middlemen, our entire industry just added costs and delays to the end product!)

    It honestly felt like she was speaking with an invisible gun to her head. I was so tense and uncomfortable, and worse, it seemed like I was the only one perturbed. Everybody else was smiling and nodding along… I was only 22 years old, fresh out of college, only recently started that job. I had no real understanding of the workplace or professional norms. But I knew this gave me a very bad feeling, both from a public health perspective and on a personal level. This job offered no paid sick leave whatsoever, and their vacation time was “5 days after one year of employment,” with no holidays except I believe New Year’s (I didn’t stick around long enough to find out about Thanksgiving or Christmas).

    There was a lot wrong with that company – this was merely what was relevant to health and work-life balance.

    I lasted barely half a year there and I fell into such a deep depression that I would not even make it to my bed after I got home from work. I would fall asleep on the couch in my work clothes every day. I gained ~20 lbs and had a major existential crisis about whether this is what life is. When I quit – with nothing else lined up! At the height of the recession! – my mental and physical health improved so dramatically and instantly that my friends, who had not seen me in months and months, commented that I must have quit my job, before I ever made such an announcement!

    Anyway the lesson to be learned is, if you take a job where the culture seems to be one like what OP’s mother has absorbed… Don’t. Just don’t take the job at all. Run as far as possible in the opposite direction.

    1. Veryanon*

      In February 2020 (yes, just before the world went to complete sh*t), my teenage daughter tried to take her own life. I remember my manager being very understanding about my need to work a reduced schedule/from home as I tried to figure out care for my daughter – she obviously could not be left unsupervised and could not return to school, so she was at home with me until I could find an appropriate treatment program for her. Then…my manager called me late one evening (I’m talking around 11pm my time) for an employee situation that she could have handled herself, knowing what I was dealing with in my personal life. It taught me that even when your manager appears to be flexible and understanding, really there is no one to advocate for you except yourself. Take whatever time off you need, whenever you need it.

      1. Avril Ludgateaux*

        I’m so sorry, and I too hope your daughter is doing better. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you think your manager has your back (esp. when you’ve never had reason to believe otherwise!) but ultimately you find you are a cog and they don’t see you as much more.

        I only brought it up because it was such a shocking revelation to make so candidly, even jovially. And I never could finger if she was saying what she thought she was supposed to say, to impress the president or out of fear, or if she had truly bought in. In retrospect, I sometimes generously wonder if it was a subtle subterfuge: clue the new girl in on exactly what this workplace is like, taking a swipe against the culture right in the president’s face, but doing it in a way that looks like you’re touting the company line. But that workplace was like a cult in many ways, and revisionist history won’t change anything.

  46. Skytext*

    I feel sad for your mom. Imagine living in terror each day that you’ll be fired. For a single mistake! And not even because of a toxic, dysfunctional employer or cruel manager, but because of a scenario you’ve made up in your head. That’s a horrible, stressful way to live. I’m sure the stress has affected her health, both mental and physical. It’s the kind of burden you don’t even notice until it’s gone and you feel the relief.

  47. Juicebox Hero*

    My mother passed away in 2018, otherwise I’d be wondering if this was one of my siblings.

    She lost vacation time at the end of the year every year (and her employer didn’t pay for it – use it or lose it.) She went to work sick as a dog because she worried she wouldn’t be able to roll over her sick time if she used any (I forget the policy, but it wasn’t all or nothing.) She was a scary perfectionist who would spend hours and hours into the night looking for a mistake, most likely dragging me and my siblings into helping her. She refused to ask for help or accomodations as her health got worse because she was convinced she’d get fired if she was seen as a burden.

    She rode our behinds all through school to be perfect – I can remember getting something like 98% on a test and being told that if I’d studied for 5 more minutes I’d have gotten 100%, and that was the exact moment I stopped caring about school – and we only got to stay home if SHE thought we were sick enough.

    Ironically, I now have the same job that she did, but when I started I promised myself I wasn’t going to be Mom. I take my vacation time, I’m not afraid of The Boss’ Vengeance if I make a mistake, I stay home when I’m sick and sometimes even when I’m not and it’s not my busy time. It wasn’t easy to unlearn all the bad habits she forced on me, though.

    (My father died when I was 5, leaving her with 6 kids. She had been a SAHM who suddenly had to provide for all of us. She almost certainly had undiagnosed mental health issues because that was “a weakness.” She worked her butt off and we never really wanted for anything, but I don’t think she was a very happy person for most of her life.)

    1. OyHiOh*

      There are times when I am very, very thankful that two of my children have learning disabilities + mental health diagnoses. Those taught me to view academics through the lens of “what does best effort for this child look like?” very early in their academic lives (rather than through my own “I love school and A’s are easy for me!!!!” lens).

      I am like your mom – widowed and primarily SAH when my kids were in elementary school – but I’ve done a lot of therapy since then because I did not want to continue on the path of untreated mental health that severely impacts how I see the world (have watched that play out with my own parents and not something I want to pass on).

  48. Janeric*

    Everyone else has covered the “come in sick” thing really well. I’d like to address “live in fear of being fired for making a mistake”.

    I have had a job like that, it was terrible for my mental (and physical) health, and the healthiest response to a situation like that is to 1.) never take initiative 2.) never try to learn new things 3.) keep that resume polished and ready to go.

    At my next job, panicking about and hiding mistakes was a toxic behavior I had to unlearn. My boss wanted a more laid back “I screwed this up and think I can solve it via X and Y but will call you in at Z” attitude (and kindly coached me to reflect that)

    1. Blanked on my AAM posting name*

      Same for me. I still get bewildered (in the best possible way) when I sheepishly admit to my boss that I’ve made a mistake and, rather than yelling and threatening immediate firing, he just goes “oh well, you’ll know better next time”.

  49. Sbux*

    As an employer, please stay home. Not only do I not want your germs in the office, I strongly want my employees to use the PTO they earn. The only time we restrict PTO is during tax season due to necessity and even then we don’t want sick people to come in. Sick people need to rest and get better so they can get back to work sooner, if I’m being honest about my motivations.

    This isn’t elementary school and there’s no award for perfect attendance. I don’t want my employees to burn out, resent me because they had to miss family events, or feel like a work/life balance is out of their reach even during tax season. I try to accommodate them because they are my most valuable resource and I need them to be happy and healthy.

  50. didinicole*

    My boss doesn’t want anyone coming in sick. She cares for our health, but also she selfishly doesn’t want to derail the whole team, or get sick herself.

    Mom is completely wrong in this case.

  51. Sbc*

    I almost died of strep as a child (105 fever, a week in the hospital, etc.) when it got into my bloodstream. It was terrible. Jim Henson did die of a strep infection. Please stay home. This is what sick leave is for.

  52. Artsy Archivist*

    My boomer parents also have this sort of mindset, and they are ALWAYS skeptical and paranoid when I take advantage of my company’s (real and well-implemented) unlimited vacation time. My dad literally once told me that I should continue to drag myself into the office until someone says “hey, ArtArch, you look tired, why don’t you take a half day”. Absolutely awful mindset.

  53. London Calling*

    “go into work every single day convinced they are going to fire you if you make a mistake.”

    Can’t think of a better way to start making fire-worthy mistakes than with a mindset like your mother suggests. Ignore it, terrible advice. And I’m a boomer like her.

  54. Avery*

    As somebody whose mother advised them to go to a job interview while sick (yes, during the pandemic) and to “give a little” to their employer by working extra time off the clock in an hourly position… sometimes parents don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to workplace norms, and you just have to ignore them.

  55. Fluffy Fish*

    Do not bring your cooties to work. None of your coworkers want what you have. None of your work will be up to par.

    A colleague once came to work feeling sick to her stomach and so kindly passed me the norovirus which affected me more than she was. I was out for a week and was miserable and PISSED at her.

    If for some reason you work someplace that does have a toxic culture around calling out sick or otherwise, then the best thing to do is look for a new job not live each second like your about to be fired.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Also side-note about being a boomer thing – while individually ymmv, and no generation is a monolith, looking from a generational wide lense, it is not actually unusual that a generation may have a set of beliefs that is more common. It 100% would not surprise me if this was a more common belief set in the boomer generation (in the US) because there were far fewer worker protections, like laws around leave or you know not firing a pregnant woman, than there are now. And even now we’re not that great great.

      Anyway my point is that there are generational themes/beliefs but there are reasons. So like millennials aren’t buying houses – it’s not because they are millennials, but it is because of circumstances occurring that affect their generation. Generalizations aren’t necessary an indictment of a generation but rather a reflection of the societal circumstances that affected that generation.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        But what purpose does the generalization serve?

        In this case, it might provide some context as to why the LW’s mother holds those beliefs, but at the end of the day, where those beliefs come from is less important than the LW understanding that they’re incorrect.

        Stepping back a bit, these generalizations become harmful when people start applying them to individuals (such as job applicants) so it can be beneficial to push back against them when they come up. The more people hear “Boomers are X, Millennials are Y”, the more they subconsciously prejudge people using these stereotypes, and that’s the real danger. People using these steretypes in their decision making without even realizing it.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          My background and education is in sociology so I have a very different feelings about generalizations. The generalizations serve to tell us something about our history, our culture, whether things have changed or not, etc etc etc. If that type of work mentality was common in “a” generation, and its now common its “b” generation, can we compare the 2 and learn something?

          It’s history. And history is always important. It’s always important to understand the whys of our culture to make effective change.

          Sure they can be weaponized but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful for what they are. People misuse all sorts of information to suit their purposes – just find any article on a scientific study. That doesn’t mean we stop doing them.

          I’m not suggesting people walk around saying “boomers are x, millenials are y”, in fact that’s the opposite of what I said. Im saying we should examine the reasons things may be common.

          1. I should really pick a name*

            I think we’re actually in agreement.
            Getting back to my question “what purpose does the generalization serve?” You’ve described a number of useful purposes.

            I’ve found as a general rule though that generalizations on age groups in advice column letters tend to be pretty universally bad.

  56. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    OP, please do not go into your office with strep throat! I’ve been prone to it my entire life and took penicillin (or one of the cillins) to treat it my whole life until I was in my thirties and developed a penicillin allergy! It is harder to treat now. And it is miserable! As someone who seems to catch everything (except COVID so far, but that is due to being vaccinated and insanely careful and I think I am jinxing myself by typing that), please please please do not come to the office sick!

    Plus, really, how productive are you actually going to be?

    1. another glorious morning*

      I am extremely allergic to penicillin. As a kid i got such bad strep infections I developed scarlet fever. I totally feel your pain.

      I missed a ton of school as kid. Was very sickly bc I would get strep and it would lie dormant and come back. Finally my mother convinced a doc to remove my tonsils. Apparently in the 90s its was not common at all to get your tonsils removed. It was the best thing my parents did my health!

      So please do not go in sick!

  57. Jessica*

    I am a manager. If my employees come to work sick,
    — they risk spreading contagion to me, to others on our team (who might be more personally vulnerable and/or more work-critical, plus it’s increasingly hard for us to function the more people are out), to other people in our workplace, and indirectly to my vulnerable elderly parents;
    — they’re more likely to make mistakes whose consequences we’ll still be trying to find and fix long after the sick day is past;
    — instead of using their PTO (1 day off), they’ll have a useless unproductive day at work now, plus save a day of PTO to use later (effectively 2 days off, from the point of view of how much time they’re missing from work);
    — I have somebody who’s nominally working, but I know they’re sick and can’t really expect anything from them, because that doesn’t seem humane or reasonable;
    — Because they wouldn’t stop to rest and recuperate, their illness is more likely to drag on.
    I would much rather have
    — my own and everyone else’s safety;
    — clear boundaries between “X is off sick, function without them” and “X is at work and should be held accountable for expected work performance”;
    — fully functional employees that I can trust to do their jobs competently when they’re at work;
    — illnesses that take as long as they take and then the person comes back when they are better and ready to work.

    1. higheredadmin*

      Exactly!!! Related to this – I had an experience when I was just starting out in the work world where people would pull “all nighters” to grind through pieces of detailed work like excel financial models. Which the next morning, when someone else picked it up, would have some error buried in it that would take ages to find because someone half-asleep made it. After spending two days unpicking a huge model, I vowed to never work sick or tired.

  58. HufferWare*

    Please let’s not engage in age-ist generalizing. People of all generations succumb to toxic “hustle mentality”. There are many reasons for this, as Alison outlined. Also, if your mom is a Boomer, maybe actually ask her about her work experience? I bet you’ll find many people of her generation, particularly women and BIPOC workers, had a much harder time finding and keeping employment particularly early in their careers. These mindsets don’t come out of no where. They are often instilled by bad experiences. And that can happen to anyone, regardless of what year they were born.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      But…that’s still generalizing by age. Women had different experiences because culture was less welcoming to them at a certain time, that’s on average a fact for women over a certain age. And their behavior in response to that is common of women in their generation.

      1. HufferWare*

        People can be and are discriminated against at any age/generation. In the specific instance of LW’s mother, this is a suggestion to try to get to know her better and understand where she’s coming from as opposed to “her ideas are bad because she’s old”.

  59. AnotherOne*

    Good lord. I wonder if your mom’s missed the integral part of that advice (or at least the version that my mom shared with me) which was during your first few weeks at a new job- unless you are doctor’s note sick- you show up and they can always send you home. (I think this is particularly true in retail. More so than in an office setting.)

    The idea sorta being that the first few weeks they don’t know you, and while a sick day is fine, you don’t want to be out for a bunch of sick days without any context. But once you’ve worked there, they know you and should trust you to make adult decisions.

    After all, they are trusting you to do your job every day.

  60. 500 lines Boy!*

    As an Ex-Teacher and Lecturer I struggle with my own dear SO with this. I want to go up to my parents for the weekend before Xmas, so I said that one of my children miss School on the Friday – the 16th December. Shock, Horror, “No! He finishes at 2 we could leave then.”
    Its a 6 1/2 hour drive. I don’t want to turn up at 9 at night, stay a full day and star driving back on the Sunday at noon.
    Missing 4 hours of lessons makes no difference whatsoever and never will. Especially on the last Friday before Xmas (they have the 23rd off) At most they will be doing revision or chatting with their mates.

  61. BellyButton*

    Your mother and I are likely the same age- Gen X, beginning our careers in the mid to late 90s. There was an attitude by a particular generation who were and have been our bosses for most if not all of our careers, that we should be grateful we have a job, and if we aren’t thankful someone younger will do it for less money.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’m so sorry that sounds like an incredibly stressful set of circumstances to try to earn a living under.

  62. BellyButton*

    Strep is also very serious and can lead to so many other complications. This isn’t a common cold. If you are sick stay home.

  63. Cheesiest 57 ways*

    My work says don’t come to work sick but but contradicts itself with a no fault policy and black out days. Dr notes are not accepted but for FMLA. Calling in sick will still get you pointed and you can be fired.

      1. Cheesiest 57 ways*

        Nope. Food Factory. January and February and every Monday are blacked out for call in days. Forced to take a point. People with sick days don’t know how lucky they are.

  64. Ruth*

    I’m not really sure how this is a question? You seem like you’re aware that your mom’s expectations are super out of touch already and mostly want to try and make people respond to the boomer parents comment. Like, follow your gut and stay home like you seemingly already plan to, keep working on those boundaries, good choice.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      There are often questions where people have successfully sidestepped professional landmines and Alison respond to help others facing the same hurdles. This is one that comes up often from letter writers and can have relevant reach.

  65. Shieldmaiden793*

    The part about not taking PTO is what angers me the most. The rest I can rationalize as someone’s very skewed and sad ideas about making oneself indispensable, but LW’s mom is just urging her not to take the benefit that is part of her compensation. Ever heard of leaving money on the table? Is she against 401(k)s, too?

  66. Peridot*

    A person who’s terrified of making a mistake will probably make a mistake. If your mind is so consumed by that, it gets in the way of thinking clearly, and it limits your ability to think about things in the future, because you’re so worried about what’s happening right now.

  67. Nomic*

    Allison, I want to point out that, “Most employers do not want you coming in … and infecting the rest of your team!” is pretty obviously false considering the last two and a half years.

    Meatpacking: “At least 59,000 workers at Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods, JBS, Cargill and National Beef — companies that control the lion’s share of the U.S. meat market — were infected with the coronavirus during the pandemic’s first year, according to a report the subcommittee released Wednesday on its findings….Workers were pushed to show up while ill, The Washington Post has reported…”

    This has been repeated over and over in other industries, particularly blue-collar. To say most employers want you to stay home sick just … isn’t true.

  68. Bird Lady*

    LW: Does your mom work retail or have worked in retail?

    I ask because I was in the ER passing kidney stones, and my store manager kept calling me threatening me with termination if I did not come to the store to close up and for him to leave to go home to watch a show he liked. I ended up having a panic attack and passing out… which created even more testing to ensure I could be discharged. Luckily my husband was there with me – we had thought I had a more serious ailment – and he has a good friend at his firm who does labor law. One call from an attorney and the calls immediately stopped.

  69. Blanked on my AAM posting name*

    I have worked in a toxic workplace where people genuinely had reason to fear being fired for a single mistake – the head of department repeatedly publicly threatened to do so – several people (including me) ended up in hospital or under specialist medical care as a result of the pressure and I still have mild PTSD around work to this day.

    So if you do find yourself in this position, my advice from experience is to run as fast and as far as you can – work shouldn’t be like that!

  70. too many dogs*

    I am a Boomer. I am also a manager. Do NOT come to work sick. Especially with Strep. It’s very contagious, and has all kinds of repercussions if left untreated. The Compassionate Me does not want you here, miserable and getting sicker; you should be at home, getting better. The Evil Me does not want you here, miserable, unproductive, and sharing your germs so that more staff can get sick and I have more staff out. Your co-workers do not want you here, for all the reasons listed above. Stay home, get better; if somebody fires you for getting sick, they are not the kind of person you want to work for in the first place.

  71. ThursdaysGeek*

    The lady who cleans my house once a week only gets 2 sick days a year at her day job, and no holidays or vacation. So when my spouse and then I got covid, we called her and told her she was getting some paid holidays from us, and she couldn’t come until we were well. She doesn’t dare get sick. I wish she dared to find a better day job.

  72. Nicky*

    As someone whose manager recently came in with the flu and gave me the flu and had me bedridden for a week, PLEASE, for the sake of your coworkers, and for your coworkers not resenting you, DO NOT go into work when you’re sick!

  73. Wintermute*

    I think in general before taking any professional advice from a parent or relative (especially relevant for older ones) or even a mentor, it’s useful to ask a few questions:

    1) how relevant/current is their experience? There have been a few big things (covid being one) that changed a lot of how things work, if they haven’t been in the workforce for even a few years their advice is pretty questionable.

    2) Is their experience relevant to your field? My family is all in government, mostly in education (mom, brother and sister-in-law). The norms are entirely different in government, and teaching and IT are two vastly different worlds. I love them dearly but they simply don’t understand the realities of my workplaces. Good example– their expected career trajectory is “find a place to work in a community you like and work there for 40 years” I am pretty much expected to change jobs every 3-4 years for my entire career if I want to keep being paid at market rates for my skills.

    3) were their workplaces generally functional and healthy? Especially if they’ve had a long tenure, they may not realize how dysfunctional their workplace is and how many of the career tips they would want to give are actually maladaptation to cope with toxicity.

    4) are they working off a social script that’s just hopeless outdated? My mom thinks I should get a job for a railroad because her dad, a dyed-in-the-wool union man, son of a union man who actually carried a gun because of anti-union violence, impressed upon her that railroad jobs were the best jobs you could get, because they had the best union. That might have been true in 1922, it is not true in 2022, yet she still firmly believes I should work for the railroad. There’s things like that that get passed down as old chestnuts long after they stop being true, because the social script and defined job paths people were expected to conform too are so strong.

    2) when was the last time they had to look for a job the normal way (as opposed to being headhunted, internally referred, going to work for a former vendor or client of their firm, etc)?

  74. Silverose*

    FYI: one of the industries that expects employees to come in when sick – and does NOT provide paid sick time – is the food service industry. You might figure out your waiter/waitress is sniffling or coughing, but you have no idea how many of the cooks in the back have a cold, bronchitis, strep, or worse. If they have a positive COVID test, OSHA and county health departments currently say they have to stay home…but if they haven’t tested because symptoms aren’t severe…? If they don’t need to go to the hospital, most restaurants expect their staff to show up for work and give them massively hard times if they don’t – and the staff don’t get paid if they stay home; most can’t afford to miss even one day’s pay. Source: my spouse used to be a chef before and through most of the pandemic, before an injury took her out of the work.

    1. Wintermute*

      thankfully that’s slowly changing. Most states have laws on the books that say you cannot work in food contact roles within so many hours of certain symptoms (mostly those of foodborne illness or norovirus), but covid has caused them to actually start enforcing them.

      If you see workers sniffling over your food I strongly encourage you to contact your state health department, the worker will probably not be in trouble, their employer could be fined or subjected to inspections.

  75. Just stoppin' by to chat*

    “I think boomer parents can instill some very unhealthy values in their kids surrounding work.” 1,000,000% agree. I thought it was just my own mom’s insecurities but turns out your mom thinks the same thing. I’m also reprogramming how I view work’s place in my life. Take the sick time!

  76. Sparkles McFadden*

    On behalf of all of your coworkers, present and future, please take a sick day when you are sick. Yes, some bosses are jerks about that, and yes, some people are impressed when you come in to work no matter what, but all of those sorts of people are short-sighted idiots.

  77. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

    LW, I send you all healing vibes. Strep is no joke. Also, I’m glad you wrote in and asked this question. We start out tiny with our parents looming large; it can be a process to realize that they are people, with faults and blind spots and so on, just like we are, and to learn to manage our relationships with them. Good luck.

  78. MeepMeep123*

    OP, I’d hate you forever if you came in to work with strep and gave it to me. I’m in a bad marriage and get mistreated by my spouse every time I get sick. When it’s a mild thing like a cold, I can deal. But if it’s strep and requires actual rest, I’m in bad trouble. I am not immunocompromised, I look like any other normal person, and you can’t tell that anything is wrong by looking at me. I certainly wouldn’t share anything like that with coworkers. But I’m terrified of germs because I know what happens to me at home when I get sick.

    Just to give you one more example of why you should NOT infect your coworkers. You don’t know what people may be struggling with, and you don’t know how you affect their lives.

    1. Good+Enough+For+Government+Work*

      I’m so sorry you’re dealing with that; I hope you know and understand that it’s not your fault and you don’t deserve it.

      I hope you’re able to find a way out.

  79. Ann Ominous*

    “Mom, when you say that, it makes me feel very sad. I imagine that must be what you felt like your entire career, and that sounds like an anxious and exhausted way to live. I’m so sorry that you felt you had to operate that way.”

    Then see what she says and maybe follow with:

    “I don’t want to feel that way and I choose jobs where I don’t have to sacrifice my health to that degree. My belief is that the purpose of making money is to help you live the kind of life you want to live, and feeling terrified of being fired as well as hurting my health (and other people’s health) is not at all in line with that.”

    And: “I understand you have a different take and I respect that you did what you thought you had to do, even at tremendous cost to yourself. My manager supports and encourages us to do things differently and that works for me, so I’m going to keep on. Thanks for caring about me and wanting to protect me.”

    And if necessary: “I see you feel strongly about my different approach. How about we put this in the ‘agree to disagree’ pile and get some of Grandpa’s amazing pumpkin pie?”

  80. catamaran*

    Agree with Alison on this x100. Do not go in sick. Sharing is not caring when it comes to germs. And kudos to you for working to develop a better work/life balance, that’s something I wish I had learned younger.

  81. TheaterKid*

    Take it from me, a person who went to work with strep throat on a job because I didn’t think I could take a sick day and promptly gave it to a co-worker: don’t go to work sick. (There are all sorts of reasons I made this ill-advised decision, among them being a freelancer so there wasn’t official sick leave, and it being an entertainment-industry field so there was big “the show must go on” vibes no matter what happened. And also me being young and never having had a job with sick leave, ever, so it hadn’t occurred to me that my boss would understand that sometimes people got sick.)

    It wasn’t until the other guy didn’t show up a few days later, and management covered his duties and said, “yeah, he got strep, so he’s out for a few days” that it even occurred to me that I could have taken time off when I was sick. It was like somebody played the “the more you know” star wipe gif before my very eyes. Even in this far-from-well-managed gig, my boss did not want us coming to work sick and would figure out how to deal with it if it happened.

  82. Mystic Llama*

    As a manager who unfortunately had most of an office out within a few weeks due to rhinovirus – take the PTO when you are sick! One person tried to “tough it out” and the rest of the office workers fell like dominoes with the highly contagious virus.

    Besides, when you’re sick, you have trouble paying attention and focusing anyway. There’s no point to being in work because you’ll feel even more miserable than if you could pause, disconnect, not think, and rest.

  83. bp909090*

    I manage an employee like OP’s mom. Coming in sick isn’t an issue with my employee, but she’s constantly terrified of being fired or getting in trouble for any tiny misstep or mistake. I chalked it up to generational (she’s almost 60). To Alison’s point, she’s my weakest employee because of this. She’s never thinking outside the box or making reasonable short-cuts in her work to improve efficiency. I have to constantly ask her to delegate more tasks to her junior employee (she’s afraid if he makes a mistake it will reflect on her). Not to mention how plain annoying it is that I have to regularly reassure her that it’s OK to be out for a Dr’s appointment or PTO and we will survive without her. OP don’t be like my employee!

  84. Ari*

    This letter makes me thankful my mom isn’t that interested in the minute details of my life. We talk about work sometimes, where our fields overlap or funny anecdotes, but she’s never tried to give me advice unless I specifically asked for it. Even then she usually lets me ramble on until I work out the right answer for myself.

    I appreciate that my company makes us use our PTO in a calendar year and that my supervisors have all been supportive of PTO and work/life balance. Unless it’s a true emergency, they never call on my days off. I think it’s happened one time in ten years. The company has other faults but that part at least has been good for me.

  85. Luna*

    If I went to work with the mindset “They will fire me for any mistake I made” (a problem that I do worry about when I am new to the job and have had horrible mental days because I was convinced I was gonna be let go), I would quite frankly *stop caring* at the job. I would barely even manage to perform the minimum because my mindset would go from “OmG, they will fire me for any mistake!” to “They’re just gonna fire me for any mistake, anyway, why should I care anymore?”

    And as for going to work sick… that’s how you get wide-spreading pandemics, if we must remind your mother of what’s been going on for the past two years and counting!

    I am the type that would go to work with sniffles, but since it has become a bit more the norm to wear a mask at work, it’s easier to do that nowadays. (I’ve done it before the pandemic at work sometimes, and people just thought I was overdoing it)
    I am still working on not thinking I have to ‘tough through’ every sprained ankle or so at work, that even my boss has said that if I really am feeling super unwell, better to be sent home early or request a sick day.

    Better one employee is missing due to illness than to have all employees there, and then the sick employee gets *everyone else* sick, and suddenly half the department is gone, all at once.

  86. Angel M*

    I once interviewed a candidate who said I should hire him cause he never calls out sick, doesn’t take vacations, ca work OT and weekends since he is divorced and his kids do not like him.
    Gee, I wonder why….

  87. Hiring Mgr*

    My parents were from the “Greatest generation” and even my mom got to call in sick at the USO

  88. Jen*

    Early in my career, a month into a new job, I got the flu. I had a flu shot, but 13 of 15 in my unit got it over several weeks, mainly because 10 of those were grad students who felt indebted to campus for their tuition. It was awful and I missed 4.5 days of work. I was on the mend and I told my mom, who responded simply “I hope you didn’t miss work”.

    After that, I don’t tell my mom when I’ve been sick. She doesn’t need to know when I have a cold or flu. I’ll probably call if I’m in the hospital, but she’s lost access to my medical information.

    1. Luna*

      My mom was rather miffed that I took the second day of my job off. But I can understand, it was the *second* day of my job, but the thing was that I was really in no condition to work. I had cleaned over the weekend and had gotten a really bad cough the evening before starting.

      Figured it was just my dust allergy hitting me a little too hard. Powered through the first day, and the second day came around and I realized I couldn’t be upright for very long. I felt super awkward about it, and called in sick, and slept most of the day until I was up for an hour or two at my doc’s, even took a PCR test to ensure it wasn’t Covid.

      I was back to work the next day, though. Negative test results, wearing a mask, and an extra pack of hankies in my pocket. Guess it was just a bad cold enhanced by the dust allergy. Just a case of really, really bad timing, and work was very understanding.

  89. desiree*

    i once requested PTO to take a friday off after not having had a day off all summer. I had been scheduled to work all summer holidays (Memorial day, July 4, Labor day) because ‘i did not have family in the area so i did not need the time off’. My supervisor denied my requested PTO but said she’s give me Friday off if i made up the hours at some other time – i.e.- longer hours the other 4 days or working Saturday.
    I went to HR to ask why I couldn’t use PTO and was told it’s up to the supervisor to approve or deny request so my supervisor could deny my request for no reason at all and HR’s suggestion to me was ‘next time you want a day off, just call in sick’
    i no longer work there. The aggravation wasn’t worth the paltry pay

    1. Luna*

      At least they didn’t tell you “If you want a day off, just get a family”…
      But I think discriminating based on family status is illegal in certain states?

  90. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

    I’ve mentioned the dude before, but OP’s mom sounds exactly like my father in law. The day before our first anniversary, he called my wife and I to congratulate us for making it a year. We thought maybe he just got the day confused or was doing something the next day and wanted to make sure he didn’t miss it, but nope… See, our anniversary was on a Monday, and he was calling Sunday because he “knew we’d both be at work the next day.” In actuality, we were in the car driving to a National Park to spend a few days to celebrate. He was **livid** that we thought our anniversary was a legitimate reason to take off of work and repeatedly threatened to call my wife’s boss (who he did not know in any way; we live on the other side of the country from her family)… to report her for lying, or something? He was convinced that if her boss knew she had requested vacation time just for an anniversary trip boss never would have approved the time.

    1. Observer*

      Your FIL threatened to call you wife’s boss?! I sincerely hope that you guys are on a low contact basis with him!

  91. NotWorkingForFree*

    I don’t understand this attitude. I have a coworker who has been here around 20 years.

    She has maxed out what she’s allowed to bank for vacation time. There’s no limit on sick time, and she currently has over 2,000 hours available. Which would be great, except she works through EVERYTHING-comes in sick and, um “spewing” from both ends (sorry!), finished out her day when her husband was badly injured that morning, left early the day a parent died, but worked the following days up until the funeral date.

    She even SAYS I know I shouldn’t come in when I’m sick-but does it anyway. We’re hourly and she’s also the one coming in early, leaving late, and working through lunch, all unpaid.

    I’ve told her, it makes the rest of us look like we accomplish less in the same amount of (paid) time when she works off the clock. She says she knows, but that’s just how she is. So very frustrating.

    1. Luna*

      Now, nothing wrong with working between the days of a relative’s death until the funeral. It’s just how some people grieve. Some take days off, others continue to work because work is something they can focus their emotions and energy on.

  92. anxiousGrad*

    I struggle a lot with deciding when to go into work or not. Obviously if I’m contagious I stay home, but I have two chronic diseases and feel sick a lot of the time/take a much longer time to rebound from viruses. Growing up I often had to go to school while I was still terribly sick because I had already taken too many days off (e.g. when I got the flu when I was 15, I missed a bunch of school so then I had to go back to school even after it developed into walking pneumonia because my doctor cleared me to). How do other people who feel sick more often than they feel healthy know when they’re sick enough to stay home?

    1. Avery*

      I know that struggle myself. I try to compare how I’m feeling to my personal norm, and also focus on what I can accomplish currently–so if I’m a bit tired and have a headache, that’s normal enough for me and I still work, whereas being unable to focus on what I’m reading isn’t normal for me, and I recently took a few hours off because I realized what I needed to do was start paying back my sleep deficit rather than force myself to be productive when my mind just wouldn’t allow for it.

  93. Chris*

    Feel better, OP! And just focus on resting and taking care of your own health. In the long run, that’s not only the kindest thing for you but it’s the best thing for your employer. The only way you can be at the top of your game at work is if you feel healthy and up to working!

  94. Allison*

    My mom and dad definitely had me convinced, a decade ago when I was just starting my career and living with them, that if it’s just a cold you should suck it up, you should only take sick time if you’re severely ill and can’t work. I think that was a common mentality prior to COVID honestly (I used to keep cold medicine at my desk just in case). Nowadays, if I were working in an office, I’d always err on the side of staying home and keeping my nasty germs to myself, especially since something could feel like “just a cold” and turn out to be COVID. Not to mention, even before this pandemic, I’d start my day with icky cold symptoms and by the end of the day I’d realize I had a fever, and full-blown flu. I can’t believe I was around all those people with such a nasty virus and didn’t take any extra precautions to avoid spreading it to others. I can’t believe how normal that was, and how many people are comfortable going back to that. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

    Also? I’ve had strep throat, it’s absolutely miserable, I could barely talk! I would never dream of going into work with strep and trying to suck it up, especially knowing how contagious it can be, you can easily make a lot of people very sick. You really shouldn’t be around people until you’ve been on antibiotics for at least a couple days.

  95. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    I had a coworker come in with the most stomach churning cough you ever heard. And heard all day. She closed her office door and it still sounded like she didn’t. It. Was. Awful. I asked her from about ten feet away if she was ok or shouldn’t she go home. “Who’s going to do this?” She asked. I muttered probably the person that survives you. We complained enough to her boss that she was sent home. With Pertussis. Quite literally the office turned against her for a long time for doing that.

    1. Mrs. Hawiggins*

      I should add she caught it from one of her children, and worked around several of us who had small children who could have taken it home…

  96. NCKat*

    Ugh. I still remember the year from hell in which I had to take lot of time off, paid and not, to take care of my terminally-ill father. He died towards the end of the calendar year, and during the performance appraisal the following year, all my boss had to say was “you took a lot of time off, but it was understandable, given the circumstances.” As if nothing I had done warranted any positive feedback. That was an atmosphere in which you were discouraged from taking any time off, even vacation time, so I kind of understand where your mom is coming from.

  97. Rumpling*

    Do you live with your mom? If not, I would strongly recommend creating some distance on the issue of work. Try to steer your conversations to different topics as I don’t think she will be helpful to you here, and she is probably also quite stressed out by discussing work too – clearly there’s some dysfunction in her past in that area.

    Also the best holiday I ever had with my mum was also in Barcelona! It’s a great city :)

  98. RVA Cat*

    The OP’s mom seems like one of those people who’ve had a bad workplace warp her idea of what’s normal. It also reminds me of the Fawn response to Trauma.

  99. Reality.Bites*

    Valuable advice I got as a teenager from my boomer cousin in her early 20s – don’t tell your parents when you’re sick with something that doesn’t require hospitalization once you’ve moved out. Just don’t.

  100. Mickey Bea*

    It’s not limited to any one generation. A Gen X or Y parent can pass along unhealthy work habits too. I’m glad younger generations are learning life balance but we don’t have a monopoly on it. It’s something Covid taught us all to embrace as we had time to reflect on what’s important. It doesn’t mean we throw away all the values from the past. I’m actually glad my mom taught me to be diligent advised me to invest in my education and my career. Listening to her is what got me where I am today.

  101. They Called Me Skeletor*

    I have parents just like the op. I was raised that you go in, no matter how sick you are, it shows dedication, it shows devotion, it shows that you love your work! I did this until I was working for one of the Big 10 Financial companies and then my grand boss was in the elevator with me one day and said skeletor, you look awful. And I explained that I had bronchitis and he essentially threw me out of the building. Told me to go home, said he’d explain it to my supervisor. Which he did, and there was no trouble, but was my mother upset about it! She told me that I shouldn’t have said anything to him. But I was so sick that I couldn’t even hide it from him.

    To this day, if I have to take a day off, I feel terrible guilt. Even when I’m in the hospital, I feel guilty about not being able to work. This is what that kind of parenting has left me with and it has created hell in my life for about 40 years now.

    1. allathian*

      I’m so sorry. Talk to your employer’s EAP if you have one. Nobody deserves to live like that, and therapy can help.

  102. Chickaletta*

    I’ve learned in the last couple of years that PTO is recorded as a liability in a company’s financial books, like a loan would be, because the company is financially obligated to pay it back (in this case they are required to pay back a benefit earned by the employee). The only way to reduce that liability is to erase it, like if someone stops working there, or by decreasing it by having the employee use it. A liability, for all those not familiar with your basic balance sheet, decreases net worth.

    So, for those who still have a smidgen of guilt that taking time off will be frowned upon by your employer, look at it this way – by taking PTO you’re improving the company’s financial bottom line. :) You’re really doing it to support your company! ;)

  103. Anon in Canada*

    I used to work for a company where, pre-covid, we were expected to show up to work no matter how sick. 3 absences, regardless of illness, and you weren’t taken back the next year no matter how good you were. 4 absences and you were fired, no ifs or buts. They also had an “attendance bonus” where any absence or late arrival meant you lost that bonus (worth around $200 a month), no matter the reason including illness.

    They now allow working from home and got rid of the attendance bonus, but the absence policy hasn’t changed.

    1. allathian*

      Ouch, I’m sorry. I guess I’m once again glad that I live in a country where that sort of thing would be in breach of our collective agreements if not downright illegal.

      I worked in retail for years as a student in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I never had an issue even then of taking sick leave. At least not after the one occasion when I showed up at work feeling a bit sick and my shift manager took one look at me and sent me straight home.

  104. Tiger Snake*

    OP, your mum and my dad has the same opinion. You know what that resulted on? It resulted in me going my final college exams while I had shingles.

    Take a wild guess how well I did on that exam. And since I did attend, I couldn’t ask to retake it like I could have if I’d just reported to being ill with a medical certificate. I went from an estimated 93 SAT score to a real score of 87 – enough to exclude me from my university program of choice.

    Your mum says to act as though work will fire you for a single mistake. When you’re sick, you will make mistakes. Therefore, even by their very own logic it is more sound to not work.

    1. merida*

      This! I tend to call out sick from work as soon as a I realize I’ve become a liability, haha…

      (also, sorry you had shingles, Tiger Snake! I hear that’s miserable)

  105. beach read*

    I once had a weird allergic reaction to …something…. which manifested in some weird physical stuff happening to my body which, while my breathing wasn’t affected, made me nervous so while at work I called my friend, a nurse, who told me to go to the ER, just to be safe. As I’m prepping to go, I call the boss and let them know what is going on, and they proceed to tell me I shouldn’t listen to the nurse, I should call the doctor first before leaving, etc… basically prioritizing the workplace over my possible health emergency. Called boss later to advise the situation hadn’t improved but had worsened and that I would not be able to work the next day at the very minimum. I was reminded at that time how many sick days I had already used and that a write up was imminent. Mind you, I was a 15-year employee who had never used even close to all my days in the past. It is awful to feel like you can’t be human and be sick without a threat to your livelihood.

    1. Fainting Frieda*

      That’s really awful I’m sorry! Nothing destroys employee dedication like being treated callously in times of medical distress. Like thanks, now I know my workplace doesn’t care if I live or die, as long as my work’s done.

      Also what’s up with workplaces that provide sick days but write you up for actually using them? I’ve worked at one before and I hated having to somehow divine how many was too much for them.

  106. Sleeve+McQueen*

    Also, as a manager, I want you to take leave! I want you to relax and recharge. Also, where I live, untaken leave is a financial burden to the company because you have to pay it out when you leave, so if you take time off, you’re doing the company a solid ;)

  107. Sevarah*

    My Mom is like this too. I had a pretty serious work issue recently that would prompt anyone to start looking for another job. I (stupidly) mentioned it to my Mom and she’s like, “just tough it out. Grin and bear it. It’s a job and you just go in, do your work, come home. You don’t need to find another job.” I’m going to be graduating with my degree in a few months (in my forties!) and when I mentioned I was hoping to find a job that was a step up, she goes, “why?! You have a good job. Just stay there. It’s always best to just stay at your job. You’ve already had a few jobs and that’s a few jobs too many!” I have seen how this mentality has affected me over the years. I had a pretty significant breakdown a few years back staying at a toxic and verbally abusive job situation for a year longer than I should’ve because of my parents urging to “just tough it out! It’ll toughen you up!” and I’ve gone in the DAY AFTER wrist surgery to a DATA ENTRY JOB because I was convinced they were going to fire me. My wrist never healed correctly because of that. I still panic if I ask to leave early not feeling well or even ask for a day off. It’s been a long process to begin to deprogram myself from their old school unhealthy way of viewing work.

  108. Fainting Frieda*

    Haha, that’s also my mom. She’s gone into work sick, injured, exhausted, etc. for the whole 30+ years of her career. The the majority of her clients were elderly so I can’t imagine that always ended well. She also had digestive problems because of the constant stress and couldn’t sleep well most nights… I remember her going through a very, very specific routine every evening of unseasoned chicken broth for dinner, chamomile tea, antacids and mineral water taken at specific times just to be able to fall asleep at 2-3AM and go to work at 8.

    She tried teaching me that mindset but it didn’t take because I could see A) how miserable she was and B) how miserable I was when I was sick and she sent me to school anyway. Once, I woke up with a horrid fever and when I said I didn’t know if I could go to school that day, she got mad and said I was just making up an excuse. I passed out in P.E. and the secretary forced my parents to let me go home – but of course, they wouldn’t leave work to come get me, so I had to take the bus home.

    I know it’s not all boomers, because I had friends of my age whose parents were appalled at the behavior of mine. I also know in my parents’ case it was because they’d both grown up either in poverty or under the threat of poverty, so they were indeed scared that their business would go belly-up if their work was anything less than perfect.

    Understanding where they were coming from brought me a bit of peace, but I sure as hell take my PTO and use my sick days now that I’m a working adult. I still feel a bit of guilt about it sometimes but the important part is I do it anyway, because I am not perpetuating that crap.

  109. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    Dear OP: Your mother is at least part of why we have plagues. Please don’t listen to her.

  110. That One Person*

    No, please don’t let yourself live with that kind of paranoia each day. That’s just going to eat at your mental health each day. Especially if your bosses have shown that they’re reasonable there’s no reason to expect every mistake to be a fire-able offense – they’ll likely be teaching moments instead and people are usually happier if things are caught than swept under the rug for later discovery.

    While I’d recommend saving some PTO there’s no reason to avoid using it ever. I know both my mum and my employers have set amounts that can be carried over each year. Her’s are a stock set while mine are accrued, but I usually also get a blatant extra day that I have to use before X date or I just lose it and otherwise I have a set hour limit that can pass over. If we opt to never take time off then that time just gets lost. Main thing really is just to notify your boss and try to ensure there’s no conflict with the dates, or if there will be what alternatives are in place (because sometimes the time off isn’t really optional so there should be a back up plan ready).

  111. Curmudgeon in California*

    Aaaaaugh! I hate when coworkers come to the office sick. I always catch whatever they have, and it is miserable. I’ve even gotten pneumonia for coworkers who came in sick. A culture of working while sick is what I consider a resume generating event, because I will not work in a place like that. I had to work with sick coworkers too often when I was younger.

    Unless you want your office nickname to be “Typhoid Mary”, stay home when you are contagious. BTW, strep throat is extremely contagious, IIRC.

    Your mom is full of baloney.

    I’m a Boomer/Gen X cusp, and while the fear based “work while sick, don’t make a mistake” rubric was somewhat in force during my early career, a good workplace didn’t do that.

    In my current career, if you never make a mistake it means that you never do anything. I did a doozy this last weekend and spent Monday and Tuesday fixing it. I’m not getting fired, because I owned it and fixed it. IME, the only time you get fired is when you try to hide the mistake and not fix it.

  112. whatchamacallit*

    Strep throat is super contagious before antibiotics kick in and it’s nasty. I absolutely would not want someone I was working with to come in with it. I can barely eat whenever I get it because the pain is so bad.

  113. Ollie*

    I have asthma. Your cold can turn into bronchitis for me which often turns into a hospital stay. Stay home if you’re sick!

  114. merida*

    Oh boy, I relate to this so much – both of my parents are like OP’s mom, and I’ve also had to work hard at unlearning the the unhealthy things they taught me.

    Years ago I went to the office with a fever of 101 – a bad decision that still haunts me! The illness I had wasn’t contagious thankfully, but still, the negative things I had to tell myself to go to work that day (you are only as good as your productivity, the job is more important than you are, resting is for the weak) make me shudder now! How could I not see I was worth a day of rest? And I’m sure I would have recovered faster if I’d just rested instead of working; I was sick for weeks.

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