coworker brings her baby to every meeting, manager is shocked no one sent a thank-you note for our raises, and more

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

1. My coworker brings her baby to every meeting

One of my colleagues had a baby about 6 months ago. She was gone on maternity leave for 4+ months. She’s now back and brings her baby to every meeting. Our meetings are all video meetings, and she’s holding her baby on her lap and using her baby’s hands to “wave” at people in the meetings.

Her manager is in most of the meetings and (obviously?) doesn’t have a problem with it, since this has been going on for a number of weeks. This person is a peer to me — I am not their manager — although I am more senior than they are. They do have another child, who is in daycare (she has mentioned this to me in the past).

Our company has decent maternity leave benefits and is relatively pro-parent as far as providing flexibility. We all work remotely. It feels uncomfortable to have a baby present on our work calls — and makes it hard to give any difficult feedback to this coworker, since they’re holding their tiny child. FWIW, I’m also a woman, love babies generally, and want to be supportive of parents! I’m just uncomfortable with them in the workplace as a pattern. Should I address it? Mention it to her manager? Let it go, and forge on if I have tough feedback, even while staring at cute chubby baby cheeks?

Most companies don’t want people caring for young kids at the same time as they’re working, because it’s impossible to do both well at the same time … but the child care shortage from the pandemic has meant employers have had to be more flexible about this. Most parents don’t want to do both at once either — although there are exceptions to that — and it’s important to know that what you’re seeing may be a result of child care shortages. That’s true even though your coworker’s older kid is in daycare; there may not be another open slot.

Is the baby distracting to your coworker, or to you? If the baby seems distracting to your coworker, like she’s focusing on the baby and not on what’s being said in the meeting, that’s a legitimate issue to mention either to her or to her manager. Or if the baby is distracting because she’s making a lot of noise while people are trying to talk, that’s legitimate to mention as well. But if it’s just that the presence of a baby, even a quiet one, makes you feel like you can’t have a normal work conversation, I’d say that’s something to work on ignoring on your end. I agree it’s not ideal, but there’s a decent chance that your coworker is stuck in a not-ideal situation and this is the solution that makes working possible. If it makes working less possible for her colleagues, that’s something you’ve got raise … but otherwise try to push through it.

2. Manager is shocked that no one has sent a thank-you note for their raise

I overheard a conversation between two supervisors in our office (I have a cubicle, they were in the conference room opposite me, the door was half-open, and they’re both loud talkers). A mentioned to B that she “couldn’t believe” no one had sent a thank-you note after our yearly salary increases last month, and the conversation moved to general rudeness, manners, etc. Then my phone rang and I missed the rest of the conversation.

We’re a smallish office in a large organization and raises are determined at the organization level. I believe my momma raised me right but I’ve never sent a thank-you note for a raise, and I’ve been working in office settings for more than 30 years. Have I been wrong this whole time? And if so, who gets the note? The managing partners who set the increases or the low-level supervisor who checks the yes/no box?

No, your supervisors are being ridiculous. Thank-you notes for raises are not an expected thing. Sometimes someone sends one, but they’re certainly not standard protocol and it’s not the slightest bit surprising or outrageous that A hasn’t received one.

When you are working for money, the money is not a gift. It’s payment for your labor. They didn’t give you a raise as a favor; it’s a business decision because they want to retain you.

It is true that when a manager really goes to bat for you to get you something above and beyond the norm, it makes sense to acknowledge that … but even then there’s no requirement that it be in note form. A verbal “thanks so much for advocating for this” is enough.

3. Candidate asked for feedback in the interview

I recently had an encounter during an interview that caught me a bit off-guard. I was one of two people conducting a technical interview for an intern, and at the end of the interview he asked very politely if we could give him any feedback on whether there was anything about his interviewing skills he could improve on.

With the way my company sets up interviews, I wouldn’t have any way to contact him afterwards or personalize a rejection with the requested feedback. I decided to go for it in the moment and said something along the lines of, “It’s really great to talk through your test cases the way you did, that lets us see how you think and also gives us an opportunity to nudge you back on track if you’re going in the wrong direction. One thing to work on might be to ask more clarifying questions if something seems unclear. It’s also totally fine to take a minute and breathe and try to wrap your head around a question if you need to, don’t feel pressured to start answering immediately.” My intention was to just give advice about interviewing itself and how to communicate effectively in this setting, but avoid saying anything about his actual code or technical performance.

Do you think it’s okay to give that sort of feedback/advice on the spot? It occurred to me afterwards that giving positive feedback to someone might lead them to think they definitely got the job. But technical interviews are such a stressful, challenging thing to navigate— when given the opportunity to give some help to someone with no experience, I really want to take it! What’s your opinion?

What you said was great! It shouldn’t lead him to think he got the job (or that he didn’t get the job, for that matter). It also would have been fine to get more specific about his technical performance too if you wanted to. Sometimes that can lead to a collaborative sort of conversation where you get to see how the person takes feedback and incorporates it into their thinking, which can be really useful in your evaluation (as well as hopefully being useful to them). Sometimes there are reasons not to do that — for example, some interviewers like to digest their thoughts first rather than giving feedback on the spot — but there’s no blanket rule that you should never do it.

4. I withdrew from a hiring process but they still want to meet, and I don’t want to

I recently made it to the second and final stage of a role which would launch a career change I was really keen for, but attempting to do the pre-interview task prompted some soul searching. The task triggered some stuff for me and clarified that moving to this career would be a huge risk for my mental health. This decision is less melodramatic than it sounds, but the timing of my realization that this path is wrong for me is unfortunate. It turns out the organization isn’t a great fit either, for other reasons.

I withdrew my application yesterday with an apology but no explanation, and the hiring manager has since emailed me twice saying how much they want to meet and asking if I might change my mind. I won’t! How do I say “it’s not you, it’s me” to a (too?) enthusiastic organization, without getting personal or prompting a negotiation?

“I’m flattered by your interest, but it’s not the right move for me right now. Best of luck filling the role!”

That’s it. You don’t need to get into your reasons why; just stick with a polite, firm no.

5. My new job hasn’t paid me since I started

I started a new part-time job with a large (1,000+ employees) nonprofit in early September. There were red flags from the get-go, and I’m fairly certain I will leave this role soon.

But the biggest red flag so far? I have not been paid even once and I’m seven weeks into the job. The organization is on two-week pay cycles, so I have failed to receive pay for three pay periods and am still unable to upload hours into their system for the fourth pay period since I started.

For context, the entire onboarding was messy and confusing, and no one from HR nor my direct supervisor ever told me how employees are expected to submit hours or on what schedule. When I emailed my supervisor about this two weeks into the job, she didn’t reply. Payroll only invited me to create an account in their employee management system after I had been employed for over a month.

I have some patience for bumps in the road in a new job, but the bare minimum I expect from an employer is to be paid on time for my work.

Friends have cautioned me not to quit until I see paychecks appearing in my bank account. Do you agree that it’s worth sticking it out until this issue is resolved? Any pointers for pushing the organization to treat this with urgency?

I assume your friends are worried that if you quit, you’ll never get paid … but employers are required by both federal and state law to pay you for your work even if you quit. Their legal obligations will be the same whether you stay longer or quit now. You don’t need to keep working (for free so far!) in order to get them to follow the law.

If you would stay longer if your missing pay showed up tomorrow, you could say this: “I have not been paid in seven weeks. State law requires that I be paid within X weeks of doing the work, and right now we’re in violation of that. I cannot continue to work without being paid, and the organization is breaking the law every day this continues. What can I do to get my missing paychecks issued today?” (To fill in the X, google your state name and “paycheck laws.”) Say this to your boss, to HR, and to payroll — all three avenues. Email, but don’t just email — follow up with phone calls immediately. Treat it as urgent, because it is.

But if you’d prefer to quit and not wait, you can quit and file a wage claim with your state department of labor for the missing money. (Make sure you keep all the documentation of your length of employment that you can find, to make that as easy as possible.)

Either way, they’re legally obligated to pay you for all the days you’ve worked.

Related: how to get money an employer owes you

{ 578 comments… read them below }

  1. CatCat*

    #5, you could also google “[Your state] unemployment eligibility” to see if you might be eligible for unemployment benefits in this scenario if you quit. It is certainly possible and “they have never paid me” would be qualifying in my state. (There may be other criteria as well such a a certain amount of earnings prior to this job, but the state can figure all that out if you file a claim.)

    1. Wisdumbteeth*

      It’s conceivable the company will try to put the blame on the employee. I would collect and print out all the email correspondence about submitting their hours so they have physical evidence that can’t be deleted by the company. They should also have a documented log for each time a follow up or inquiry was made regarding their pay, lack of training, etc that will bolster their case.
      Only then would I quit and go after them for backpay. Surely a source of income is desperately needed right about now by way of a new job.

  2. AcademiaNut*

    For LW1 – regardless of what’s going on you need to be urgently looking for a new job. Either your employer is so incompetent they can’t manager to figure out how to pay people on time (in which case, they’re unlikely to last long) or they’re in financial trouble and can’t pay you (in which case, they’re unlikely to last long), or they’re actively dishonest (and you should run before they do something worse).

    Also, you’ll probably have a better chance of filing a complaint and getting back wages while they are still in business. If you show up to work one day to find the doors locked and an out of business sign on the front door, your chances of getting the money are going to be much lower and more complicated.

    Payroll screwups can happen in an otherwise well run and stable business, but the response to being told that you haven’t been paid will be abject horror and apology, followed by immediately cutting you a cheque, and it never happening again. But this company is neither stable nor well run.

    1. Sister George Michael*

      LW1 is the baby question, so at first I thought you were telling someone forced to see a baby every day to “urgently look for a new job,” and I thought, ‘well, that’s a little over the top.’

      1. snarkfox*

        lol same. I was like, yeah, I can understand if the baby is crying really loudly it might get frustrating but surely this isn’t “look for a new job” territory!

    2. Observer*

      Payroll screwups can happen in an otherwise well run and stable business, but the response to being told that you haven’t been paid will be abject horror and apology, followed by immediately cutting you a cheque, and it never happening again. But this company is neither stable nor well run.

      Reminds me of the “my employee wasn’t respectful enough”.

      At least some of the payroll people DID get it – but at least one payroll person and the employee’s manager did NOT.

    3. ferrina*

      Payroll is a really, really big deal. If the company isn’t willing to take this seriously, what are they taking seriously?!

      If you haven’t already, start making some noise. Ask everyone possible on how to get this set up. Tell people you haven’t been paid. Chase people down in their office and ask if they can get this set up NOW. It’s up to you how long you want to stay, but you need to get paid. Period.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        And double check all the taxes/withholding once you get paid. I wouldn’t trust them to do anything right at this point

    4. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      Payroll screwups do happen even in larger companies, but they are treated as serious “we will fix this ASAP” issues. Because they are. Any company that doesn’t treat it this way is a huge red flag.

      My first week at my current company, they had my position incorrectly coded. I noticed the issue on my second day and asked if that which was going to result in a paycheck for 2/3 of the correct pay. They immediately jumped into action but since the issue took a little longer to solve, I had a correct manual check delivered directly to my hands on that first payday from a very apologetic HR person. I have not had an issue since in 14 years.

      1. Quetzal1234*

        I had a terrible payroll screw up happen one job — whoever entered my bank account info dropped a digit. They also did the thing some jobs do where they don’t pay you for the first (incomplete) payroll cycle, so I had waited a month, after moving for the job and paying for that out of pocket, and then the check with my moving reimbursement bounced. I was flat broke and had to borrow money from my parents. They were totally unconcerned and made me wait for the check they bounced to come back before they would resend the money — but only in the next pay cycle. That org was completely dysfunctional on so many levels, so I guess the axiom holds true.

      2. Lizzianna*

        I work in government, and we’ve had a handful of mistakes in the decade plus that I’ve been here. But when an employee (new or otherwise) says they haven’t been paid, or they weren’t paid the right amount, it’s an all-hands-on deck situation for our admin team and managers to figure out (1) how to get them the right amount ASAP, and (2) what happened so we can make sure it doesn’t happen again in 2 weeks.

    5. Faith the twilight slayer*

      I work in nonprofit accounting, and if OP’s org is federally funded, this could put their grant eligibility in danger. Not to mention it’s the largest red flag EVER just waving all over the place during audit, like those wavy things at car sales.

      And as an accountant I am simply appalled and somewhat personally offended on behalf of my profession that this is happening. OP, you deserve better.

      1. Observer*

        Not just Federally funded. In NYC, this would put State and City funding in jeopardy as well. I imagine this would be the case in any government funded organization, in any state. Because this is flat out illegal, and government agencies don’t like having open contracts with people that openly break the law.

      2. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived*

        You’re right, this is more than a red flag, it’s a red whacky waving arm flailing tube man!

  3. TROI*

    I feel like it’s a lot to ask someone to work on ignoring a baby at every meeting. This is every meeting! And using the baby as a prop to wave at people. Come on. I have sympathy for the hypothetical situation this parent might be in, but that’s too much to ask of your coworkers to put up with and try to ignore.

    1. Jessica*

      It absolutely is in normal times, but these are still not normal times for a lot of parents. Have you read some of the column Alison has run during the pandemic about how it is for parents of young kids? It may well be that the coworker is on every conceivable waiting list for childcare anywhere near her and is desperately juggling work and baby and trying not to have to quit her job. I am a curmudgeon who doesn’t like interacting with babies or think they’re cute, and this would annoy me too, but given the ridiculous lack of social support for children/parents in our ridiculous country, and the absolutely desperate situation mothers have been for the last three years, I would 100% let it go.

        1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

          The immense hostility towards working mothers which has already resulted in a decrease in women in the US workplace will lead to a continued decrease in the overall status of women in this country.

          1. Fishsticks*

            Working women are in such an absolute “damned if you do, damned if you don’t, and we’re going to make both options as difficult as possible” situation in the United States.

          2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Due to my background (mat-child health) everywhere I worked in the before times let people bring their babies to work until they were 6 or 9 months old, so babies in meetings is more my norm than exception. This topic always sits weird with me because I’m waiting for the, “….and the problem with the baby in the meeting is X, Y, and Z” when the problem seems to be “baby exists”.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              For me, the problem in LW’s case isn’t that “baby exists”

              These are extraordinary times and sometimes a parent has to do what they can to keep their kids safe, cared for AND keep a job. To me, a baby present in a meeting may be one thing, and fine even if there’s a distraction sometimes if the co-worker has to stop what they are doing to tend to baby. In those cases, a simple “hold on a sec, the baby’s fussing and I need to check what’s up” wouldn’t be an issue to me any more than someone needing to step out for a coughing fit or answer the door or shush a barking dog would.

              But as LW describes it:
              “(co-worker) brings her baby to every meeting. Our meetings are all video meetings, and she’s holding her baby on her lap and using her baby’s hands to “wave” at people in the meetings.”

              That lands differently to me. It comes across as baby being front and center at all meetings … on her lap, so visible at all times, not just in a sling or otherwise with the parent during meetings, but yeah, kind of being used as a prop with the ever-presence and the waving. There may be a bit of a BEC thing going on from the LW, coloring how they described this co-worker’s behavior, but taking things simply as they are presented, I can see that being a bit distracting.

              All that being said, LW isn’t this person’s manager. Alison’s advice was spot on.

              1. Happy meal with extra happy*

                I just find it bizarre that you’re fine with a baby being generally “present” but sitting on the person’s lap is just too much. If a baby is generally fussy in a crib/play pen or in a sling (or too big for that), I’m not sure what other options remain. Propped up in a little mini office chair next to OP?

                1. Hannah Lee*

                  ” you’re fine with a baby being generally “present” but sitting on the person’s lap is just too much.”

                  That’s not quite what I said.

                  It’s not just that the baby is on her lap … that was only one element of the “front and center” at all meetings I said I could see as a bit distracting; it’s the collective impact of:
                  – at all meetings
                  – on her lap, so visible at all times
                  – kind of being used as a prop with the ever-presence and the waving

                  That last one is what puts it over into the distracting column for me when combined with the first two.

                2. Happy meal with extra happy*

                  @Hannah Lee – nah I still find it weird you equating a baby to a prop. This isn’t a coworker holding a stuffed animal on their lap every meeting. Babies are living things and sometimes the way to keep them the least amount of fussy is by holding them in your lap.

                3. Willow*

                  She could have the baby in her lap and just have the camera aimed at her face. You can’t see if my cats jump in my lap on zoom meetings since I don’t have the camera pointed down. Not intentionally hiding them, it’s just a natural consequence of centering my face.

                4. Jennifer Strange*

                  @Willow babies are taller than cats. When my daughter is in my lap her head is pretty much as high as mine.

                5. Hannah Lee*

                  @Happy meal with extra happy

                  At this point I’m happy to say I’m okay with you thinking what you think I’m saying is weird, even if what you think the point I was making, opinion I have isn’t what I think was the point I was making or the opinion I have. I’ll just chock it up to me not expressing myself well and call it a day.

                6. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                  In my experience, the best way to ensure the baby doesn’t fuss is to keep her on Mummy’s lap, where Mummy is sure to notice all signs of hunger, fatigue or needing a nappy change and deal with them before baby has to escalate.

                  I think expecting her colleagues to wave to the baby is a bit much, like she thinks everyone loves her baby as much as she does, but for every curmudgeonly colleague who doesn’t like babies, there will be three who’ll find the baby a most welcome distraction.

              2. I Need Coffee*

                You are hitting what doesn’t sit right with me. It’s the “using the baby’s hands to wave at people” that is distracting. I’m all for giving parents extra grace because it’s been a really difficult period to parent through but this seems beyond that.

                1. Big Bank*

                  Yeah, the waving is what really gets me because they aren’t even trying to make the polite fiction that baby isn’t there. And if this baby requires being held, all the time, like other commenters are saying then… I don’t see how this person could possibly ever be productive.

                2. Jennifer Strange*

                  @BigBank no one is saying the baby requires being held all the time. For one thing babies take naps. For another what people are saying is that the baby may cry if the mother isn’t holding them. Baby crying while mom is working on finance reports by herself? No big deal. Baby crying while mom is trying to listen in on a meeting? Not good. Also, many of us are able to hold a baby in one hand and work with another. I have done it.

                3. Jen*

                  I am 99% sure she is waving the baby’s hands to try and break the tension of a bad situation and to pre-empt the misers. And anyone who thinks you can just leave a baby in a crib for 8 hours (down thread) to prevent coworkers from remembering that they work with humans and sometimes those humans have bigger needs than taking redundant notes on the nth zoom meeting of the day needs to reassess their own priorities.
                  Signed, also had to WFH for 6 months with an increasingly large baby because this country’s covid-era child care availability is a joke.

              3. Lizzianna*

                My baby (5 months old) is perfectly content most of the time if she’s in my arms or my lap. If I try to put her down and she’s not in the mood to be put down, all heck breaks loose. Then I pick her up again and she’s all smiles, especially if I have some small interaction with her (like using her hands to wave). I promise, what LW describes her coworker as doing would be far less distracting than my baby in a play pen next to me.

          3. Just Me*

            Preferring that your co-worker doesn’t use a baby’s hands to wave at other participants during a work meeting is not “hostility to mothers,” good lord.

        2. Pfft*

          OPs description doesn’t say anything about the baby actually doing anything distractive, just that they feel uncomfortable that the baby is there …..because they want to provide negative feedback to a colleague about unrelated matters (? which I don’t really understand why a baby would prevent that?).

          If she’s getting her work done and the baby isn’t derailing meetings, I don’t understand what there is to even ignore. Would you also demand someone to not allow their pet in the camera view? Dogs are also cute, would they make negative feedback hard to give?

          Sounds like the employee has an arrangement with their boss, and that OP ignoring the baby wouldn’t actually be a hard task.

          1. Allonge*

            Eh, if someone’s cat is always on camera and their human is consistently interacting with it in all meetings, that would be low-key distracting at least in the sense of ‘we are working here, can you please direct your attention to the meeting and not Mr Kittens’?

            Of course there are different obligations toward a child than towards a cat.

            1. PsychNurse*

              People have cats and dogs on screen a lot. I don’t mind them at all, but I can’t stand when every meeting involves five minutes of “Ohhh I see Fluffy! Hi! How are you, Fluffy? Okay let’s see everyone else’s cats!” I know people are just bonding and essentially making small talk, but it annoys me.

              I would feel the same about the baby. I have no problem with the mom holding the baby and snuggling it, kissing it’s face when it isn’t her turn to talk, but I would be irritated if everyone ELSE was going “Aw the baby looks tired! Hi baby! Is it nap time? He’s gotten so big!”

              1. L.H. Puttgrass*

                OTOH, I’ve been in more than a few meetings where the only redeeming feature was getting to see people’s pets.

                1. KRM*

                  After my last lab meeting I had to show my cat on camera because I mentioned him before I started. He was met with general approval. Then he tried to bite me (because I woke him up to show him on camera).

            2. Ace in the Hole*

              Eh, there’s reasons I don’t like working from home and don’t do it unless required. One of those reasons is I have a very demanding, people-oriented cat who wants to be involved in everything. If I lock Mr. Fluffy out of the room, he yowls constantly. If I let Mr. Fluffy in the room and ignore him, he keeps jumping on the keyboard and sticking his nose in the camera. So the least distracting option for everyone involved is if Mr. Fluffy sits quietly on my lap, getting occasional pets to mollify him.

              I’m sure the same applies to many babies. If the choice is baby sitting quietly in Parent’s lap vs baby sitting in a crib off camera but fussing every few minutes… I’d rather baby be in the lap!

          2. Asenath*

            Ignoring the baby wouldn’t be hard, but I came to the bit where the mother is waving the baby’s hand at others in the meeting. Maybe the mother has no alternative for either child care or earning a living, but for me, that put her actions into “playing with the child and involving her co-workers” rather than “holding her child while doing work” territory, even if it does not require the co-workers to wave back, participating in the play. I might not say or do anything to anyone unless the mother was obviously completely distracted, but I wouldn’t be waving to baby.

            1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

              For me, this is really a question of scale. If she’s waving the baby’s hand continually through an hour-long meeting, that’s distracting and a real problem.

              If she’s waving the baby’s hand during that five minutes of small talk that seems to happen at the beginning of every meeting (which is how I picture it, but it can go either way), then it’s a minor annoyance at worst. Like that one guy who always has to talk sportsball before getting down to work, or the duo who starts every Wednesday meeting noting that it’s humpday – it’s all just a part of working with humans.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                That’s how I pictured it as well. I would just ignore it. Some people will hate it, some people will absolute love it – it’s not worth the capital or hassle to address something so innocuous.

              2. CommanderBanana*

                Yeah, I’m totally guilty of this. My little dog likes to sit on my lap during meetings (and basically every other time I am sitting down) and at the start of a meeting I’ll often hold her up and wave her paw at the computer.

                It makes slowly being crushed under capitalism a teeny bit more bearable.

                1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                  For what it’s worth, if I was in a meeting and your dog waved at me, I would absolutely wave back.

              3. Dust Bunny*

                No, after the first one or two times as a funny, it’s playing. We get it–you have a baby.

                1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                  Today was approximately the 305th time I walked in to “HUMPDAY!” since I started this job. We get it; it’s Wednesday again.

                  People try to make personal connections in different ways and sometimes other people find them grating. It’s worth an internal eyeroll, but that’s about it.

                2. daffodil*

                  Maybe I’m misreading your tone, I don’t find being playful at work a serious violation of professionalism.

                3. Becca*

                  I think people forget that a baby is a complete human, not a prop. Meaning you are thinking the mom is doing some cutesy thing that should get old after a time or two. But often babies of that age LIKE things like having their hand waved at people on the screen, and it can genuinely help keep them entertained to do stuff like that, hold them on your lap, etc. Babies are not the same as pets or plants, and if they’re on your lap, they won’t just sit there contemplating the universe. I’ve had a few childcare emergencies with my baby and when she’s home, when a meeting is happening and she’s awake, the most effective place for her to be is on my lap with a few “actions” like waving her hand, clapping her hands together rhythmically, etc to give her bursts of actions to focus on and then mimic for a few minutes while I listen to and participate in the meeting. We get it – you don’t like babies. But it might not be all about you,

              4. pugsnbourbon*

                I’m constantly distracted by my own goddamn face (WHY can’t I hide my own camera, Teams? WHY!?!?!). I would much rather look at a baby or a dog or cat or ferret. Anything but my own face.
                (usually I put a post-it on my screen over my view, but still)

                1. Ruby*

                  You can! I just found it myself. Click on the three dots by your face and hit “Hide for Me.” You might have to redo it if you switch your view around.

            2. Happy meal with extra happy*

              Sorry, I find this extreme. “I’m fine with someone holding their baby, but they must have zero engagement with it. Gray rock that baby!”

              1. Fishsticks*

                Hey, if there’s anything that’s great for a child’s brain development, it’s being consistently ignored and treated like an inanimate object. /jk

                I think there are kind of two camps here – people who think this baby must be causing all sorts of ruckus, and those who think it’s a beginning-of-meeting wave and then a muted mic.

                1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  I have coworkers with toddlers where the toddlers are absolutely disruptive during meetings – and I don’t like it, but I don’t assume the parent likes it either and they’re doing their best. I’m glad parents can work right now and the situation sucks. A few minutes of sitting in polite annoyance as they try to have a conversation and also quiet their kid isn’t going to kill me.

                2. Dust Bunny*

                  Nobody is asking the baby to be ignored all day, every day. They’re asking that it not fake-participate in meetings.

                3. Fishsticks*


                  Yeah, agreed. I have two children (8 and 6 now) and during the early days of the pandemic, I was trying to work full-time from home while also acting as daycare/pre-k teacher and kindergarten teacher to a 4 year old and a 6 year old. I sympathize with the stress of trying to balance both at once – it’s an absolute nightmare. Babies can be a little easier with that, but not by much.

                  I think sometimes people need to be able to shrug off and internally deal with annoyances or irritations that don’t actually affect them directly.

                4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                  Compared to the person who takes a personal (and very detailed) call without putting themselves on mute in the meeting or the hold music guy, the baby might be the least annoying member of the meeting

                5. inko*

                  Dust Bunny, the point is not that the baby will be ignored all day, every day. It’s that you literally cannot ignore a baby. Like, at all. You try it when they need something, they will scream. The least disruptive way of wrangling an awake baby and a meeting is to be quietly jiggling the baby on your knee with one arm around it and your mic off.

            3. to varying degrees*

              Yeah, it sounds like to me mom is having the baby wave throughout the meeting. That would annoy me. And the more meetings it goes on for, the more it would annoy me. I’ll wave at your kid once at the beginning, I’m not doing it every 10-15 minutes, every meeting.

              1. Me ... Just Me*

                This is why we need to have the option of “camera off” during zoom meetings. I honestly don’t understand why we all have to have our cameras on. Do you really need to see me staring at a the screen throughout the meeting?

        3. Ellis Bell*

          This would be easy for me to ignore, but if I did for some reason find my eyes glued to the baby, then I’m sure there’s solutions I could find with my display, or by focusing on my notes. I would find that more doable and within my control than insisting the co-worker do…. what? The baby would be a lot more distracting if she put it down!

        4. bamcheeks*

          I actually don’t get this! Hard to ignore in person, sure, but hard to ignore on a virtual meeting? when it’s a little 1.5″ square on your screen and the baby’s head is literally half an inch in diameter? Unless they are spending a lot of time interacting with the baby when they are actually contributing, I really wouldn’t find that hard to ignore at all.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I think you can hide individual people, as well–no? So if you found it distracting to look at the baby, could you turn off the mom’s screen? Or set yourself to only show who is actually talking.

            1. TootsNYC*

              I just googled this, and maybe only the host can hide them, and they have to hide them for all? I’m not sure.

              1. bamcheeks*

                It probably depends on the platform and the implementation of it. But yeah, would be something to check on your platform!

              2. mskyle*

                I used to sometimes put a post-it note over one colleague’s zoom window because he would generally have one of his kids on his lap during meetings. I never discovered a technical way to hide his window in Zoom.

        5. Sleepy*

          What is your suggested fix then? The mom may have the baby wave in order to break the ice a little bit and not have everyone wondering, is she holding a baby?

      1. The pragmatist*

        Is there some reason why LW1 can’t simply put the baby in its crib during video conference calls, or even go audio-only?

        1. Varthema*

          My baby would scream if laid down at that age (aahhh nobody warned me about that, it sucked), but LW1 could potentially ask her coworker to go camera-off – “your baby is so cute I keep forgetting what I wanted to say!” (if you want to sweeten the message)

        2. bamcheeks*

          Audio-only is presumably an option, but “simply put the baby in its crib” is a real “that’s not how babies work” thing. I understand that there are some people who had that kind of baby, but I certainly didn’t.

        3. Lily Rowan*

          All other things being equal, job-wise, I figure a meeting is a better time to hold the baby than when the parent is trying to do focused work.

        4. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I don’t think it’s helpful to speculate on circumstances and solutions for the parent when it’s so circumstantial. Also the parent isn’t writing in/reading, and it would probably be an overreach for OP to make parenting suggestions

        5. ferrina*

          I was wondering about the audio-only option as well. I’ve been in quite a few meetings with my baby (when she was a baby), and I was audio-only for a lot of them.

          I’d usually start with “I’ve got my baby here with me, so don’t worry if you hear a bit of noise in the background.” Then we’d get on with the meeting. It was really easy for them to forget the baby was there.

        6. Sleepy*

          Nothing simple about putting a baby in a crib. But going audio only might be an option although that might look really odd if everyone else is on camera.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I have sympathy for the parent in this instance, and they may well be on waiting lists – but how are you going to take notes and hold the baby safely at the same time? Also there is the appearance of not paying attention fully to the meeting because you’re playing with baby’s hands during the meeting.

        In the house or room because you don’t yet have childcare – I get it. But on the lap for EVERY meeting is a bit too much.

        (Capitalizing every for emphasis, if it’s just grabbing the baby when they’re upset during a part of a meeting and putting back down when calm here and there, or going off camera when baby needs something – that just reads differently than holding the baby through every meeting.)

        1. McThrill*

          As someone who’s had a baby while also working from home as a freelancer, some kids just don’t give you an option. You can choose to hear constant screaming or you can have a kid in your lap – every kid is different and I guarantee you that the mom knows best how to keep her kid quiet in this situation.

          1. Fishsticks*

            Plus, it’s a whole lot easier to focus when you have contented baby in your lap than when you have angry/worried baby screaming for you. Yes, babies are distracting, but trust me, screaming babies are WAY MORE SO because every single bone in a parent’s body will be equally screaming at them to save their baby from whatever doom they are facing lying safely in their crib.

          2. Sleepy*

            This. I could maybe lay my baby down for 10-15 minutes before she would wake up and crying in a scream cry way. It was always way easier to hold her.

          3. Yorick*

            I like that we’re giving the mom the benefit of the doubt, but it’s totally fanfic to assume the baby screams if mom isn’t holding it. With the information we have, it’s just as likely that she’s one of those parents who thinks everyone is overjoyed to see the baby at all times.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              No one is saying it’s definitely the reason she always holds the baby, but rather pushing back on the assumption that the mother can simply put the baby down somewhere with no issues.

            2. inko*

              Honestly, even those parents really like having both arms to themselves sometimes. If it’s genuinely every meeting, I’d bet it’s because the baby screams otherwise.

            3. tessa*

              Good call, Yorick. A couple of my co-workers with babies seem to use them as props to get oooohs and aaahs. I get so tired of it.

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                Sounds like you’re projecting intent, which isn’t their fault. Sometimes people just need to hold their babies. Sorry if you’re tired of it. I’m tired of having to hold her while I work because daycare fell through for that day.

        2. misspiggy*

          In a situation where you can’t take notes you have to rely on memory. Plenty of people can do that.

            1. Ellis Bell*

              Probably easier to remember if a baby isn’t screaming. Plus there are lots of ways to record.

              1. Lydia*

                I think having a baby on your lap is fine as long as you’re not playing patty-cake constantly, but I will point out having meeting minutes is not the same as having my notes that directly relate to me and my job and the tasks I have to do.

            2. Observer*

              That assumes that CW Mom would be taking notes anyway. And, given that it’s a video conference, that there is no recording either.

              1. LlamaDuck*

                Wait, why not? All of our video meetings are recorded. There’s a notification that the session is being recorded when you enter the meeting room.

                1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

                  @LlamaDuck, I think that was Observer’s point: The previous comments were assuming there would NOT be a recording, which is not in-line with most video calls (or at least, those have the option of being recorded/transcribed).

              1. Lydia*

                I think people are confusing notetaking with taking note of things that pertain to you and your job. There’s a difference between being asked to take notes of what was discussed and taking notes on items that directly pertain to you and your job. Maybe you don’t do that, either, but I think a lot of people might.

            3. Parakeet*

              I’ve seen a lot of different people’s meeting notes for different sorts of meetings, and feel confident in saying that notes can be and often are faulty, because they are taken by people. And people may not have processed something quickly enough to write it down properly, may have written it down wrong, misheard something, etc.

              The baby won’t need to be on the parent’s lap forever, and (having taken care of babies that age) is probably, if well-behaved (and the LW didn’t mention disruptive behavior), no more of an impediment than the anti-chronic-pain device I’m wearing on my dominant hand right now. Which I am hoping will be, much like a baby’s need for constant lap time, temporary.

          1. ferrina*

            Yep, this is how I did most of my meetings. It also depends a lot in what kind of role you are in- I could track my team’s projects pretty easily in my head, and for any key details, I would ask someone else in the meeting to take notes or follow up with an email.

        3. Seashell*

          The baby is around 6 months old, so this is not a newborn who needs their head supported. S/he may be sitting upright on their own or close to it. The mother can probably sit the baby up on her lap and hold them with one hand around the baby’s waist and take notes with the other hand if she really needs to take notes. I’ve never had to take notes at an online meeting.

          1. Kyrielle*

            This. Most of the meetings I’m in are general updates. There are seldom actionable take-aways for me, and if there are, it’s usually only one. (“Focus on items for ThatCustomer first” or the like, usually – very easy to remember, because they will have been talking about ThatCustomer and why they need extra attention for a large portion of the meeting. But the talking-to-customer and such isn’t my role, I just handle assigned tickets and need to handle those for ThatCustomer first, for a while.)

            For optics’ sake, if it’s not being done to amuse the baby, Mom might want to stop having the baby ‘wave’ for her. But putting a waking baby who wants a lap in a crib or pack’n’play or any other thing in which they can be safely ignored to the extent of focusing on a meeting is going to result – with some babies, not all, but I think most! – in screaming.

            In the before times, I barely had care for my firstborn by the time I went back to work – the waiting lists were a thing even then. Now? I’m so glad my kids are older, because here the child care situation is a mess.

        4. Happy meal with extra happy*

          I rarely take notes in meetings, and, if a baby’s capable of sitting up on OP’s lap, I’m sure it’s possible for them to hold the baby with one arm for a omens if a quick note needs to be jotted down.

        5. Corgis rock*

          The person may not need to take notes, I’ve sat through countless meetings where I didn’t take notes. Also, as the parent of two I can tell you that you can get really good at doing things with one hand while you hold the baby in the other arm.

          1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

            Yeah the whole “She’s not taking notes!!” is weird in many levels. Not all meetings are ones that need notes, some meetings have designed note takers, and yes believe it or not, people could hold a baby in one arm and jot things down with the other.

            The OP never said once that the mom isn’t doing her work, missing deadlines, etc. I feel if that was the case it would have been mentioned.

        6. Ellis Bell*

          Why would anyone hold a baby throughout an entire meeting unless they literally have to, in order to hear the meeting? Do you really think it just hasn’t occurred to a parent that: “Hey, I bet I could just put them down while I do this!” and then get more comfortable with a cup of coffee and a pen?

          1. McThrill*

            This. For real. The number of people who assume that moms just never realized they could put their kid down is pretty bonkers.

          2. Malarkey01*

            I think there’s a real spectrum here- I was a CoVid baby to toddler parent and I was in the totally frazzled trying to do it all camp and trying to minimize the time I was distracted with childcare (the most stressful time in my life). Another coworker had a different take and basically noped out of work for 18 months and would say how great it was to get paid for being a stay at home parent and would bring her kids to meetings and stop participating.
            My output was probably 50% of normal and I worked strange hours to squeeze work in when they were sleeping, my coworkers output was about 5%.

            Everyone has different kids and different challenges and you can’t always compare, but there is a segment of parents who have taken this opportunity to have more of a stay at home parent experience and really do not see the issue with it (and I’m a HUGE a proponent of low cost available daycare and paid parental leave, and flexible schedules).

          3. inko*

            Yupppp. Astonishing the number of people who a) dislike and avoid babies but also b) are experts in the best way to deal with babies.

            1. tessa*

              Oh, good grief. This isn’t about disliking babies while claiming to be experts on them.

              Hyperbole is just so useless.

              1. Ellis Bell*

                Honestly, a lot of the dislike of the situation does seem to stem from ignorance. From “I can’t give tough feedback to someone holding a baby” (the baby doesn’t understand), to “pay for childcare like I did” (vastly more impossible now), to “just put the baby down” which is honestly the best laugh I got on this thread.

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  Oh, the best laugh I got was “Teach the 6 month old that the meeting isn’t for them then give them a tablet to watch Elmo.”

                2. inko*

                  I was quite tickled to learn that you can’t safely hold a baby while making notes. Two hands on the baby at all times! No food or drink for you, new parents.

                  I really don’t want to be snide but it’s SO frustrating that people don’t question the limits of their own knowledge when they have literally never done the thing.

              2. inko*

                I don’t mean everyone with concerns about babies in meetings dislikes babies. I mean there’s a frequent pattern of people who are specifically and vehemently Not Into Children (which is fine by me, I really don’t need everyone to like children) but who still have very strong ideas about how parenting works. Which is kind of like me telling drivers how to drive, or dog people how to dog.

                1. inko*

                  I mean, there has been some wildly unrealistic stuff posted about Meeting Mom in the comments to this post. There’s no way she could possibly need to do this! She should put the baby down and that will be less distracting! If she has no childcare, she should just pass the baby to a nanny! She should teach the baby not to interrupt meetings! When parents say that’s not how any of this works, we are not just being hyperbolic, and we are not missing obvious solutions. The brain doesn’t fall out during birth.

                  It could genuinely be very irritating if she’s trying to get coworkers to interact with the baby throughout the entire meeting, instead of a little bit at the beginning, but we don’t know which is the case. Are some parents too convinced that everyone is equally fascinated by their baby? Of course! But there’s also a tendency to see everything a parent does through that lens. Oh, she doesn’t NEED to hold the baby, she just wants to show him off because she thinks we all love him. That’s uncharitable and inaccurate, and it makes for some deeply dismissive attitudes to the really bloody hard work of childcare.

              3. Jennifer Strange*

                Again, where is the hyperbole? There are literally folks in this thread suggesting things that won’t work while admitting they know nothing about babies.

        7. YouWithTheGlasses*

          Every kid is different, but when I was in a WFH admin job with a baby he was content to hang out in a sling style wrap on me. I could do all of the computer work and random office tasks, brochure folding, etc I needed to do for work with him attached to me.

          1. Bumblebee*

            Once you are used to holding the baby, it’s like you grow extra inspector gadget arms or something. When I was in the hospital with my second, the nurse walked in and observed me feeding the baby, while also eating a snack and reading a magazine, and just said, “Well, I take it this is not your first child.” Holding a baby and taking notes seems pretty doable to me at least.

            1. inko*

              I remember that kicking in – realising that I was suddenly bundling my first baby around with total confidence, because I was used to her weight and how to support her. It’s muscle memory, just like with anything else, really.

        8. Esmeralda*

          Baby Bjorn. Gave me my hands back.
          Or a sling.
          Or hold the baby with one hand /arm, write with the other one. I assure you, women have been doing all sorts of work holding a baby for literally tens of thousands of years.

        9. Sleepy*

          It sounded like she used the baby’s arm to give a wave at the start, not play with the baby’s hands throughout the meeting.

        10. Just Me*

          This stuck out to me too. If it was in some meetings, or parts of some meetings, that would be a lot different. It also makes me wonder – is she holding the baby all day long, every day?

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Not likely. Babies sleep a couple of times a day for one thing (so time to put the baby down). And my baby crying while I’m doing my own work by myself is fine (assuming it’s just her being fussy and not being in pain, of course). But if I’m in a meeting her crying is going to be far more distracting, so it’s way easier to just hold her. At 6 months I was able to hold her with one hand and do something with the other.

          2. inko*

            I’m wondering if they have regular meetings at the same time of day. I doubt she’s holding the baby all day, because there’ll be a few naps in there at the very least – but my babies always napped to a rough schedule even when I didn’t particularly impose that, so a 3 o’clock meeting (for example) would basically always have found me with a wide-awake baby who wanted physical contact and something going on. An hour before, said baby would have been napping beside me on the sofa.

            I could also have worked alone through a bit of baby grumbling while rocking a moses basket with one foot, but in meeting I wouldn’t be able to hear my colleagues or speak myself over the sound of full-on screams, so I’d nip that in the bud and just hold the baby from the start, without giving them time to get grumpy.

      3. Hound Dog*

        There is absolutely no lack of childcare situation that requires the baby to be on her lap for every. single. meeting. There is simply no way she’s concentrating on the meetings in any meaningful way, and I highly doubt she’s able to take any kind of notes either. And I also highly doubt the baby is just sitting there as a placid little doll the entire time, meaning she has to be giving the baby some care and attention.

        Once again, a parent gets all the special treatment for their darling little angel, and everyone else is left picking up the slack.

        1. Janet Pinkerton*

          It seems like this is hitting a nerve for you. I also don’t know why the baby is in lap every single meeting (are no meetings during nap time?) but the mom has determined that given the circumstances of the baby being at home, baby in lap is the best and least distracting option. Video calls are very captivating for babies. I’m not surprised that baby in lap is the best option available. If baby were fussing elsewhere, mom would be distracted.

          And many of us don’t need to take meeting notes. Not because of our stellar working memory but because either someone else takes formal notes for everyone or it’s just a discussion with some action items—you only need to jot a few things down.

          Mom’s doing her best. This is what her best available is like right now due to her life circumstances. Presumably you would want some slack if you had caretaking responsibilities such as for an elderly parent.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            Yeah, I was thinking the thing about taking notes really depends on the nature of the meeting and whether follow-up notes will be sent out.

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            During Covid as a young childfree professional I have in fact picked up more slack for people caring for elderly parents than I have for parents. The parents in my office are absolutely doing their best to work around their kids, even if it’s disruptive sometimes. Elder care often requires total disconnect from work for long periods of time. In neither case am I blasting the caretaker – they aren’t out partying instead of working. We have to do what we can do.

          3. Yorick*

            We really don’t know that the coworker is doing this because it’s least distracting. She might just really want to hold and play with her baby and either does it all day or thinks meetings are the best time to do so. And/or she might think her coworkers are delighted to have a baby waving at them during the whole meeting. We don’t have enough info to know; we shouldn’t speculate, accept the speculations as truth, and tell LW they’re in the wrong because of those assumptions.

            FYI, I think this sounds annoying at worst and not something LW should try to do anything about, unless it’s having an actual impact on the meetings or the work.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              we shouldn’t speculate, accept the speculations as truth, and tell LW they’re in the wrong because of those assumptions.

              Who told the LW they’re wrong because of assumptions?

        2. Darsynia*

          In my city, daycare wait lists extend to before you know if you conceived, for care for a one year old. This was pre-pandemic, so I can only imagine what it’s like now.

          1. ferrina*

            Pre-pandemic, my major city usually had waitlists of 6-8 months. A lot of openings happened at the beginning of the school year (as older kids went to kindergarten and their slots opened up, letting the other kids move up, etc.) If you missed that widow, it would usually be months before there was another opening.

            1. Lizzianna*

              It’s also not affordable for many, many people. If you pay withhold and report taxes (which is the law), most nannies I’ve found want $15-$20 per hour, minimum. I’ve had a couple people ask why we don’t just get a nanny when I tell them my struggles to find childcare, and I don’t think they’ve done the math, or they think government workers like myself and my husband are paid much better than we are.

          2. Lizzianna*

            Yeah, we moved while I was pregnant, so I wasn’t able to get on waitlists until I was about 6 months pregnant.

            For our preferred center, the waitlist for infant care (so under 1) is over a year. They have a 2-3 month waitlist to take a tour, which is required to get onto the waitlist. I literally would have had to get on the waitlist before I told my parents I was pregnant to have a chance to get into the baby room.

            At this point, we’ll be lucky if she makes it into the toddler room.

            Of the half dozen centers within 5 miles of my house, one had room, and that’s where she’s going right now. As much as society wants things to go back to normal, the childcare industry is still in crisis in many ways.

            1. anonarama*

              nannies are child care. if she doesn’t have child care she definitionally does not have a nanny

            2. Avril Ludgateaux*

              I’m 100% sure if the woman in question had a spouse, nanny, or anybody else available to care for her newborn while she worked, she would be making use of them.

              I’ve noticed a lot of unsympathetic comments from you in this thread. You’re being incredibly unhelpful, glib, and repeatedly hostile. We get it, you don’t like children. Jog on.

              1. L-squared*

                Yet here you are responding to all of their comments. We get it, you don’t agree with Dust Bunny. You can move on too

                1. L-squared*

                  I mean, that is fair. You can do what you like.

                  That said, I don’t know that you can ask someone else to stop replying if you don’t want to.

              2. fhqwhgads*

                You’re being pretty openly hostile yourself, too, ya know.
                The baby in the letter is not a newborn. Letter says she had 4 months mat leave. Baby stopped being a newborn at 3 months. Has been lap-sitting for a while now.
                Is it easy to work with a that-young child and no childcare? Hell no. Was just there last summer. But at the same time, babes in arms in video calls are not the way. Kiddo needs to be in a playpen or a crib. If kiddo can’t do that without screaming, mom needs off the call.
                I’ve worn my baby for an hour while working and it went ok. Holding her? She’d be grabbing for everything on my desk, bashing the keyboard, etc. I know not all kids are the same but the attention span of a kid that age to just sit and chill without direct interaction, developmentally, is just not that long. So unless these meetings are sub-20 minutes, I do not see how this could not be a major distraction.
                BUT ALSO the person with the baby isn’t the one who wrote in. So the advice here needn’t be on the subject of what that person should do.

                1. inko*

                  Honestly, I’ve had two polar opposite babies. One could sit happily on my lap for ages, given something to quietly fiddle with. One would have been a flailing octopus from hell within five minutes. They can be REALLY different.

                2. Jennifer Strange*

                  But at the same time, babes in arms in video calls are not the way. Kiddo needs to be in a playpen or a crib. If kiddo can’t do that without screaming, mom needs off the call.

                  Why? Who made you supreme decider of this? If the manager has no issue with the baby being on the call and it’s not causing an issue (and “I’m distracted by baby” is something the LW needs to deal with on their own), then it 100% IS the way to go. Or would you rather mom just never has a meeting?

                  know not all kids are the same but the attention span of a kid that age to just sit and chill without direct interaction, developmentally, is just not that long. So unless these meetings are sub-20 minutes, I do not see how this could not be a major distraction.

                  And yet the LW can’t really point to anyway this is a major issue other than “feedback”. I’ve had meetings where people had their cat or dog walking around in the background (or in their laps being petted). I’ve had in-person meetings in open-space offices where folks were walking around us. Are you saying those things are any less distracting?

            3. Sylvan*

              Not everyone has a stay-at-home spouse or a nanny. These things aren’t free.

              What is free, though, is ignoring the nonissue of a baby being visible in video calls sometimes.

                1. inko*

                  OK. The issue of having to ignore a mild to moderate irritation for the length of a meeting. Do you get this irate when you don’t like someone’s voice, their favourite small talk topics or the colour they’ve painted their background wall? The LW really doesn’t indicate that the baby is seriously disrupting the meeting.

                2. Jennifer Strange*

                  Sure, but if it’s an issue for someone that the presence of a baby is distracting then it’s on them to find ways to stem that. Just like if I was distracted by someone having blue hair that would be on me to fix, not ask them to do something.

            4. inko*

              Spouses (if not working themselves) and nannies are childcare. If she had one of those available, she’d have childcare.

            5. McThrill*

              Parents of newborns are always forgetting about the live-in nanny that they have to take care of their kids for them.

            6. Jennifer Strange*

              I’m sincerely not trying to be snide, but responding with “Nanny” as suggestion for who can take care of this child is such a Lucille Bluth response. Nannies are crazy expensive.

              1. Eyes Kiwami*

                Great explanation for it! There sure are a lot of “it’s one nanny, how much could it cost, $10?” comments here

        3. Fishsticks*

          What slack? Everyone else is expected to handle a minor annoyance that doesn’t personally affect their workday beyond being visible in meetings – LW didn’t say baby cries or screams through everything, sounds like mom is muted for the actual main event of the meeting in that case.

          I have a coworker whose dog makes routine appearances at just about every meeting I’ve ever had with him. Somehow, the work still gets done.

            1. Fishsticks*

              You haven’t met this particular dog. Normally, I wouldn’t make the comparison. In this case… well, it’s fairly apt.

        4. YetAnotherAnalyst*

          This is a really unfair take. There’s no way for us to tell whether this is a reasonable workaround for the mother or not.
          – We don’t know what the childcare situation is. Broadly speaking, wait lists for infants are outrageous and have been for years; my understanding is they’ve gotten much worse since the pandemic.
          – We don’t know what “every meeting” means. Once a week? Once a day? Multiple a day? My meetings tend to be at 9 AM and 3 PM, which if I remember the nap schedule from twenty years ago would have been exactly wrong for leaving a baby in a crib.
          – We don’t know the baby’s temperament (though we can presume if the baby was fussy in most meetings, LW would have mentioned it!). At 6 months mine would happily be held on my lap for an hour or more, but babies vary.
          – We don’t know the mother’s role in the meetings, or what her job entails. The only meeting I take notes for is a monthly 1:1 with my boss. All my other regular meetings I’m giving status updates on the things I do between meetings. If she has an easy baby and needs her hands free to type during rest of her day, it might make sense to feed the baby before the meeting, hold them during the meeting, and then change them and put them down for a nap while she gets some actual work done.

        5. Ellis Bell*

          I don’t know which version is true because you’ve contradicted yourself: Version A where the baby is able to be put down without it causing a disturbance, or Version B where the baby is disruptive even when being held. I think you don’t know much about kids if you find it unbelievable that a young baby could sleep quietly when being held. Also I don’t know what equivalent you want for child free people, but whatever “special treatment” you’re thinking of – spit it out! It might be great to discuss that need; it might even happen at good companies, whatever it is. Everyone has lives and needs slack occasionally.

        6. Lavender*

          As someone who lost childcare for almost a month due to COVID and had no support, the “special treatment” you’re referring to is still paying $1500 a month for daycare even though we weren’t allowed to use it, doing my work and emails after 11pm instead of sleeping, and failing constantly at my paid job and my parenting job. Knowing my coworkers might have had the same judgements as you is chilling.

          Both groups are suffering because there’s a complete and utter catastrophic lack systematic of support for parents so we are burnt out and running on survival mode.

        7. Kara*

          I work in the PMO of a very large Three Initial Company. I rarely have to take notes during a meeting. If I do, it’s often a quick, jotted line or two as a reminder.

          This whole insistence that she HAS to take notes and if she doesn’t she’s failing is baffling to me.

        8. inko*

          Holding the baby on a lap might be the absolute best way for her to concentrate. My babies would have sat much more quietly in that scenario than if I had tried to put them down. I would also have a free hand for taking notes. Whereas a baby playing on the floor or in a cot would be frequently asking for my attention, and I’d have to keep checking in to make sure they weren’t eating something they shouldn’t be or rolling towards the stairs.

          LW didn’t mention having to pick up any slack whatsoever. All we know is that the mother waves the baby’s hands at people, possibly at the start of the meeting (fine) and possibly throughout (less fine), and the LW feels weird giving difficult feedback in front of the baby (which is something LW needs to deal with, because I promise the baby doesn’t care). You don’t have to think babies are darling angels in order to cope with this situation.

        9. Observer*

          Once again, a parent gets all the special treatment for their darling little angel, and everyone else is left picking up the slack.

          You really are making stuff up out of whole cloth. We get it – you hate parents and don’t think that children should ever be seen in a workplace because their mere presence is somehow a huge burden to you.

          But on a FACTUAL level your claim that people are picking up the slack for this woman and that everyone else is being disrupted is clearly almost certainly false. Alison DOES address the possibility that the baby is actually disruptive. But the OP’s description of what is happening is that the child is actually NOT disruptive.

          As for your claim that it is impossible that this woman has childcare issues, that’s flat out nonsense.

        10. Jennifer Strange*

          There is absolutely no lack of childcare situation that requires the baby to be on her lap for every. single. meeting.

          You have absolutely no way of knowing that. You don’t know this woman and her situation and you don’t know her child.

          1. Lydia*

            I mean, to be fair, if it actually IS every single meeting (and I don’t think it really is), it is kind of odd. I think the OP is annoyed and is perceiving it as every single meeting when it’s not.

        11. whoevenneedsausername*

          Folks being left to pick up the slack is a failure of the company to hire appropriately, not the fault of parents doing their best in an impossible situation. If you need to be mad at someone, be mad at capitalism and profiteering corporations.

          (And ditto on the notes stuff others have mentioned — even when I try to take notes, I end up going back to the recording for context 90% of the time.)

        12. Claire*

          I’ll be sure to tell the childcare sector that’s down 10% of the jobs it held pre-pandemic that there’s no way they don’t have any childcare spots because someone on the internet said so.

        13. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          This is less than charitable. I can assure you that it’s perfectly possible to tend to a baby on your lap while also listening attentively to the meeting.
          The baby would fuss much more in a crib or playpen. On her mother’s lap, the mother can see signs of needing to feed, sleep or whatever much more quickly, and will do whatever is needed long before the baby starts to fuss.
          The legend about women multi-tasking is actually about mothers.
          While the handwaving bit is definitely cringey, OP says nothing about the mother not getting her work done or pulling her weight, and anyway, she’s not even the mother’s manager.

        14. Laura*

          I find the obsession with whether or not the mom is taking adequate notes really amusing. Not all of us are in roles where we have to take notes – others take notes for us, most of our meetings are ones where our role is to provide input for our team members who we manage to then move forward with execution or provide input upward to c-suite who are looking for senior leadership input on company-level strategy, etc. I’ve done all of the above with a baby on my lap due to covid-caused childcare emergencies. When I do have a covid daycare closure, the best days are ones where my meetings coincide with when my baby is awake. She can sit on my lap and be entertained by the video, and then when she’s asleep I’m able to power through a bunch of heads down work. I also then work when she’s asleep to make up for any lost productivity – typically from about 7:30pm to midnight on those days. Definitely feels like I’m getting special snowflake treatment, let me tell you.

          I’m sorry note-taking is such a big deal for you in your role – that must be really frustrating. It’s just not something I think about all that often anymore and if I realized someone on my team was concerned about whether or not I was capable of taking notes with a baby on my lap, my first thought would be that they must not have enough to do.

      4. BethDH*

        This is especially hard for babies under 6 months because many daycares don’t take them, and if they do, the required adult-child ratios are very high. In my area only one daycare takes kids under 6 months and they take a max of 6 infants.

        1. BethDH*

          That’s relevant here because OP may feel differently about the distraction if it’s over in two months, and it may be that the direct supervisor already knows about such plans.

        2. ferrina*

          Great point!
          In the U.S., the child:teacher ratios change based on the age of the kids. The ratio will always default to the youngest age in the group. In my state, it’s 3:1 for infants, building up to 10:1 for 4yos. But if you have a group of five 4yos and one infant, you still need two teachers (ratio goes to the lowest age- 3:1)

          Daycares also need to be able to provide coverage for teachers to be human, like using the bathroom. If a teacher is in the bathroom, they are not in the ratio. So staffing also has to anticipate a number of floaters that can step into a classroom as needed to relieve teachers. So it’s not as easy as “just hire another teacher”.

          That’s also without accounting for the high turnover in childcare. It is an extremely stressful profession, and physically demanding. You’re on your feet for 8 hours a day, picking up children, dealing with children’s tantrums, demanding parents, plus the usual coworker/work stuff. And you make really low wages- usually less than $30k per year. Childcare had a relatively high turnover before the pandemic, and it’s only increased since then.

      5. Dust Bunny*

        “using her baby’s hands to “wave” at people in the meetings”

        This baloney needs to stop. If mom is doing this, she can’t be surprised that people get tired of seeing her baby–the baby doesn’t work here. She can get a grip and not play with the baby long enough to hold a meeting even if the baby is sitting quietly on her lap.

    2. Just me*

      Because it’s always a video meeting, I wonder whether LW1 could lessen her discomfort by hiding that coworker from view, maybe by pinning a different participant or by making the window smaller so fewer participants are shown. Or, hey, a Post-it on the monitor could work.

    3. Ellen Ripley*

      If the baby isn’t disturbing the meeting or the mom’s concentration, how is this different than someone’s cat being in the background, or someone wearing an ugly sweater that you hate? If it’s not interfering with your or your coworker’s work, then let it go.

      1. ferrina*

        Agree. I’m not a fan of the Constant Baby, but I’d prefer that to some of the yappy dogs that are on some calls.

      2. Despachito*


        There was a lot of speculation about childcare, child sleeping patterns, taking/not taking notes etc. most of which seem to be strawmen to me.

        I’d see as the only important thing: does the baby on the mother’s lap make her less productive/ actively disturb other people in the meeting by crying, writhing etc.?

        The note taking would be important only if she was constantly missing something, but the mere fact she does not take them is irrelevant and not other people’s business.

        The hand waving is the only thing where I’d frown a bit, because it is shifting attention from work on the baby, but I’d consider it a very minor thing not worth of addressing even with the mom, especially if it is just at the beginning and not throughout.

        If the only problem for OP is that a mere sight of the baby is distracting, I think they should cope with it on their own, perhaps by hiding the mother’s window from her view if there are more participants, or perhaps by asking the mother to go audio-only. I do not think it is up to the mother.

    4. Allonge*

      I think a manager would be in the position to ask (gently) what kind of options there will be for the kid to be supervised by someone else during meetings / work hours longer term, at least to start that dialogue – I know the general situation but the specifics have to be clarified. And for all we know the manager has done this.

      OP is not a manager though, so the best they can do is totally ignore the child, have all interactions as if the baby was not there.

      1. Lydia*

        IF the baby is distracting in an actual measurable way (baby shrieks frequently during discussions and mom is not muting the line), that is something you can talk to a manager about. If mom uses the baby as a kind of fidget spinner and waves at people throughout the meeting, that is a distraction and you can talk to a manager about that. Other than that, it’s not really a thing.

    5. Cherry*

      I dunno, I think it depends how often the coworker is getting the baby to wave at people and all that. My very “confident” cat regularly appears on calls, and if someone asks about him at the start of the call (they usually do!) I’ll introduce him and interact with him, then I’ll attempt to keep him somewhere where he can sit calmly without having to interact on camera the rest of the time. If it’s like that, it seems legit. If she’s just playing with the baby the whole time, that’s not great.

      1. Varthema*

        Agreed! I work in the same room as the litter box (only option) and my cats often feature, but unless the person asks, I’ll generally just ignore them, and pull them off if they’re climbing on me. Also, I wonder how new this working situation is – the waving thing could be an awkward nervous thing the coworker does because she’s feeling uneasy about having her baby at work. If that’s the case, it might well pass once the initial phase is over and then the baby will just be an object. LW can help that out by just ignoring the baby altogether (sometimes people feel required to react to a baby or animal on the screen).

        I do feel for the coworker because apart from COVID-related backup, most daycares in my country stopped accepting kids under a year because of higher staffing requirements and spiking insurance rates. Private in-home care as a result is really tough to find. A lot of people rely on family, but that’s not open to many others. It could be this or the coworker leaving the workforce.

      2. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Yeah. I also think it’s worth giving it a month or two before speaking up (assuming it’s not majorly distracting). It sounds like she has only been back from maternity leave for a few weeks and it’s very likely they are working on childcare.

        Given that her manager is on all the calls, I’m guessing this has been discussed with them.

      3. kiki*

        I also think having the baby wave at the beginning of the call can ultimately be less distracting for the group. Like, “Hello, my baby is here, they waved to you and are cute, let’s get to business.” I’ve found that not acknowledging can mean more people bring up the cat or kid throughout the meeting and take things off topic.

        1. inko*

          This is how I’m picturing it – an initial ‘hey, here’s the baby, everyone who’s into babies can do the hello baby bit – and now that’s out of the way, onto business’.

          I will say that if it’s happening throughout the meeting, interrupting the actual agenda, then that’s not so great. Holding the baby on her lap is probably still the least disruptive solution, though, just without the cutesy waving bit.

    6. Grumpylawyer*

      I have a coworker whose baby has been in her lap for our weekly practice group meetings for the last six months and I don’t see how it can possibly be an issue. The baby is a delight to see (and I say this as someone who neither has nor wants children), and we greet the baby along with our coworker when we all log on. Like all of us, my coworker mutes herself when she’s not speaking. Since Zoom defaults to speaker view, we only see her (and the baby) when she speaks. (I suppose some people might see her in a thumbnail depending on how their gallery is displayed, but who stares at those the whole meeting?) My coworker is also perfectly capable of carrying on a conversation while holding a baby, so our meetings just run like normal.

      I wonder what this “tough feedback” is that the LW mentions, though. What is happening in these meetings that she routinely needs to give people “tough feedback,” and why would she do it to a peer? And in a meeting in front of their manager and other people, not privately? If the presence of a baby humanizes her coworker and makes her take pause before saying something “tough,” the problem could be more with what she plans to say than the baby.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I’m almost wondering if the feedback relates to things getting dropped that then makes the coworker’s job harder? Like the coworker isn’t a manager, but is in charge of a project that the mom is on, so as the project manager she’s giving feedback.

        Also must say I’m slightly envious is these mom’s whose infants were placid enough to sit on a lap for a meeting and not be a wriggly, entertain me now problem. The junior members of the Orchestra Family would have never lasted more than five minutes on a good day. I think that plays into my wondering how much attention the mom is able to pay to the meeting with baby on her lap.

        1. Becca*

          I totally get the misgivings given your baby(ies) sound like they wouldn’t have tolerated it, but I promise there are babies out there who do. I’ve had my baby on my lap for many a Covid-caused daycare closure and while she absolutely won’t stand for it now at 14 months, at 6 months she would easily sit on my lap for an hour meeting provided she wasn’t hungry, allowing me to talk, jot notes, and generally behave like I would without a baby on my lap. Sometimes, doing something like waving her hand at everyone would be helpful to keep the baby entertained. It didn’t matter if anyone waved back.

      2. Ruby*

        Agreed, I can’t think of a reason that the baby would stop feedback (they… literally don’t understand what you’re saying). Unless it’s a reminder that coworker is a human being.

      3. TootsNYC*

        yeah, tough feedback should not be delivered in group meetings.
        So since our LW is not her manager, why is she delivering tough feedback that might get the mom upset? Or observing it happen from others?

        Saying, “This got done wrong, here’s why it’s a problem, can you fix it” should not be considered tough feedback, and it should not be delivered in a way that implies it is.

        If the mom reacts to that badly, it’s a completely non-child issue.
        And maybe the LW needs to think about how feedback gets delivered in her company or her department.

    7. anonagaintoday*

      I agree. Also about 1 in every 5 women these days is not a mother, in some cases, not by choice, and having to look at a baby in meetings every day may in fact be very triggering and hard. It doesn’t mean not being supportive of parents. Also it’s not clear if this is a true childcare situation, which is an issue all on it its own, or just the woman thinking her baby is a convenient and cute addition to the meeting, and that everyone feels the same way about seeing babies. I know no one ever talks about this part and that there’s often backlash, or it’s just written off as bitter or jealousy, but the truth is it’s often just hard and I probably would start looking for a new job if my regular work meetings started having babies and toddlers in them.

      1. BethDH*

        It IS hard. I say that as someone who had kids under three, no local family, and no daycare for about 7 months of the pandemic. I still get distracted and don’t like kids in meetings where avoidable.
        I think the question is whether OP can/should do anything about it. OP is not the manager and doesn’t know whether this is temporary or a longer situation. It falls into the same category to me as a medical accommodation — you don’t need to know why someone has been given it, and it’s not on you to judge whether it’s valid. You can bring it up with a manager if it’s interfering with your work and it’s on them to figure out how to handle it without putting the burden on you, but after that it’s mostly a choice of whether the company culture that allows it is right for you.

        1. anonagaintoday*

          For some women dealing with social or medical infertility, not wanting to see babies in every meeting could also fall under the same category as an accommodation. Of course, it would never be viewed that way in practice, but listen and hear women of childbearing years going through unwanted infertility and the chronic emotional and mental health issues are real. Yes, everyone has to find ways to co-exist, it’s always going to be a part of life, and being “sensitive” to everyone is not practical either, but also, women should be aware and not so oblivious, that to some people it’s not just a cute distraction, it’s actually painful and distracting. But the truth is most people won’t say anything for fear of sounding insensitive to parents and working mothers, and will internalize it, and quietly look for another position. The same support is just not there. It is what it is. I’m not saying someone without childcare shouldn’t be allowed to have a child on their lap in meeting, but also a manager should realize that in this day and age, NOT being a mother is hard for some, and just at least be aware that some of their employees might be struggling with that too, when everyone is all fawning and waving, and who’s just putting on the tolerant smile once again.

          1. Fishsticks*

            To some extent, I don’t really understand the mentality in your earlier half of your comment. After my dad died quite suddenly and unexpectedly, seeing other people with their fathers was difficult and painful for me for a while, but that wasn’t anyone’s problem but mine. When we were trying to have a baby and I was dealing with miscarriage after miscarriage, seeing babies was painful – but, again, it wasn’t anyone’s problem to deal with but mine. I would certainly never have considered the responsibility of a coworker to hide their baby lest it make me sad.

            1. CommanderBanana*

              ^^ This. I have a small and very dysfunctional family and am estranged from my parents, and this time of year is VERY hard for me, but I don’t deal with it by demanding that no one else talk about their holiday plans or visiting family.

              1. MyThreeCents*

                Right, but what if they kept showing you photos of their family every time you had a meeting and talking about how much they couldn’t wait to spend time and how great this time of the year is because they just have the BEST, most amazing family? Every meeting. I’m dealing with infertility and going through IVF and you have no idea how exhausting and draining it is. Work is the one place I can get away from it, and this would absolutely make me feel like crap if this were happening to me. I’m so glad that anonagaintoday brought this point up because so many people don’t think about it, but it’s work. You should be professional, and even if I wasn’t going through my own personal issues, seeing this every single time would get old and annoying.

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  I’m really sorry for what you’re going through. I’ve watched my brother and his wife go through it, as well as two close friends. But this woman isn’t having a baby at anyone, and presumably didn’t decide to have her baby on her lap during a meeting for fun. This is mostly likely an last option for her, and while we can (and should!) all be sympathetic to folks who are dealing with infertility, there also needs to be sympathy for parents who are just trying to make the best out of a bad situation.

                2. Fishsticks*

                  I am sorry – and I hope that my comment didn’t come across as mocking. I have been where you are, minus the IVF itself, but with the infertility and struggling with repeat miscarriages. I know that it can be exhausting and grieving is hard.

                  But I just don’t necessarily see this as something where everyone needs to rearrange their lives around that grief. Hm. I suppose this is a very individual thing.

                3. CommanderBanana*

                  If you know this person and feel comfortable telling them, you could ask them to refrain from bringing it up.

                  If it’s in a larger meeting and everyone is talking about Happy Family Fun Times, I tune it out and remind myself that while I would love to have Happy Family Fun Times, it’s just not possible for me, and the trade-off is that I have a lovely quiet holiday full of my favorite foods and snuggling my dogs.

                4. MyThreeCents*

                  @Fishsticks, nooo not at all, it didn’t come across as mocking. Thank you so much but you were perfectly fine. I actually personally am not as sensitive as others I know who are dealing with the same thing, but know how hard it can be on a lot of people (and it’s like every failed attempt rips the wound back open, so at times I’m more sensitive than others).
                  @Jennifer Strange, I TOTALLY agree. I didn’t mean to come across as “focus only on MY pain and ignore the terrible childcare options we have in this country”. I mean the situation for women with kids in the workforce in general is pretty tough, so I am absolutely understanding of that. A baby on a lap a time or two wouldn’t bother me, but making a big deal out of it, the baby “waving” at people, and generally being part of the meeting every single time would get to be a bit much.

              2. ferrina*

                CommanderBanana, I’m sending you jedi hugs if you want them. I’m right there with you- highly dysfunctional family that I’m semi-estranged from (Low Contact and live far, far away from). You are not alone.

                Captain Awkward has a ton of letters that deal with holiday/dysfuntional family stress and just noping out of it all. If you haven’t discovered her yet, highly recommend it!

                1. CommanderBanana*

                  Thanks! I love CA, she got me through some very difficult times of going low contact and then no contact in the wake my sibling’s death.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        I think it would be insanely harsh to judge this as “bitter” or “jealous” and it is absolutely a relevant issue for someone to raise with their manager before jumping to job hunting. I think there’s a difference between saying “I don’t know if the baby’s presence is this coworkers’ accommodation for their circumstances – but it badly clashes with an accommodation I need” and just saying that the sight of a baby is unprofessional. Talking it out should find a solution, like audio only for instance.

      3. Emmy Noether*

        No parent thinks it’s more convenient to work with a baby on their lap if there are other good caretaking options. Come on!

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          But they don’t have like… a crib? Or a play pen? Or one of those little bouncing baby seats? Why is in her mother’s lap the only place the baby can be?

            1. CommanderBanana*

              Hahaha right? Especially if they’re in that “everything is fine if I am in contact with you but as soon as I sense I am being laid down I will howl” stage.

              1. AnonyChick*

                Oof, I remember my nephew going through that stage! Seriously, as long as some part of him was in some sort of contact with another human, and as long as you looked at him occasionally (literally; no interaction beyond eye contact needed!), he was perfectly happy to just hang out and chew on a toy or whatever. Maybe even fall asleep! But if you put him down so much as six inches away from your body…*insert very loud emergency siren noise here*

          1. LizB*

            They probably have all of those things, but it’s entirely possible that baby screams her head off any time she’s not on someone’s lap. I spent some lovely evenings holding a friend’s baby for 15 minutes so my friends could actually eat dinner with two hands, because their kid despised all forms of seating for a few months. There’s no guarantee that’s happening here, but if it is, I’d rather have visible + happy baby than out-of-sight + shrieking baby in my work meetings.

          2. The Tin Man*

            I’ll take your question as a genuinely earnest one. There are replies earlier in this thread about this you may have missed because of comment timing, but that’s not often how babies work. There is a very real likelihood that the baby would cry if not being held – that’s how babies work sometimes. A quiet baby in the lap is a lot less distracting than a screaming baby in a crib.

            The part that is going to frustrate parents with your questions is that you assume the mother in question didn’t already consider, and rule out, those options.

            1. CommanderBanana*

              Yeah, something about laying a baby down activates their I AM BEING LEFT IN THE FOREST TO STARVE OR BE EATEN BY WILD ANIMALS BETTER SCREAM UNTIL I AM SAVED setting.

            2. inko*

              Yes. We know about cribs and baby seats. We are the ones wrangling babies 24/7. We’re not missing something about how it works.

          3. PostalMixup*

            A 6 month old’s attention span is literally a couple of minutes. If you put a baby that age down with some toys, they’ll likely need attention very soon, and the mom will have to get up and attend to them. That’s just human neurodevelopment. With the baby on her lap, she can provide a new stimulus as needed. Which is more disruptive for the meeting, then entertained baby in the lap or the coworker having to disengage from the call every five minutes?

          4. Emmy Noether*

            In a slight variation to what I said, no parent thinks it’s more convenient to work with a baby in their lap if there are other good options to put the baby.

            I’m sure the mother has thought of putting the baby down. It’s not a novel idea, and it would be more convenient for her. I’m sure she’d love to. If she’s not doing it, it’s that it doesn’t work.

          5. ferrina*

            Most babies need a lot of interaction. Playpens are great….if someone is playing peekaboo while they’re there. Bouncy seats are awesome….if Mom/Dad is smiling at Baby and clapping with them. Babies only entertain themselves for a minute or two (if that). They need focus, attention and human interaction. It’s a key part of their development at this age.

            1. Big Bank*

              I feel like these types of comments are just re-enforcing the point that this woman can’t possibly be functioning well at her job while also providing full time childcare, no?

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                No one is arguing otherwise. What we’re saying is that she may not have any other choice right now. Daycares don’t always have spots available, especially for infants.

              2. inko*

                Well, it’s also why holding the baby on her lap may be the least disruptive way for her to manage the baby and the meeting – because a baby being held, with occasional jiggling/patting/whatever, is likely to be happier for longer than a baby put down and left to its own devices. The mother can get away with focusing the majority of her attention elsewhere if she’s giving the baby that physical comfort and stimulation. A lot of commenters are taking the view that holding the baby is more distracting for her than not holding the baby, and that’s probably not the case.

                It is true that trying to work without childcare is entirely terrible.

        2. Khatul Madame*

          This is a generalization. While it is tough to work while taking care of kids at home, plenty of families embraced the savings, particularly as the standards for work output were temporarily relaxed.
          Also, somehow this “babies/kids in videoconferences” issue occurs overwhelmingly with women. Can’t the partner hold the baby for an hour or two while the mom is in meetings, or just needs a frigging break?

          1. Emmy Noether*

            I still maintain that no-one thinks it’s more *convenient*. Cheaper, sure, and a bunch of other potential reasons. Convenient, no.

            I was reacting to someone saying we don’t know if it’s a childcare issue or the mom is just doing it because she likes it.

            1. Khatul Madame*

              Mom’s spouse, the baby’s other parent. Yes, it’s possible she is a single mother, or the spouse works outside of the house, but it’s also possible that they are working in the next room.

              1. Ellis Bell*

                It’s also possible it’s another woman/they don’t exist/are working outside the home/has the baby during their own meetings so that both partners have their hands free for the actual tasks discussed in meetings. It’s a true hypothetical, certainly possible, but unlikely that there’s a carer just out of camera shot just twiddling their thumbs. More likely than a nanny though, I’ll grant you.

          2. Observer*

            . Can’t the partner hold the baby for an hour or two while the mom is in meetings, or just needs a frigging break?

            You are making a LOT of assumptions here.

            It’s highly, highly unlikely that the CW thought of that and said, “Nah, I would much rather hold the baby myself during meetings than allow my spouse to hold the baby, even during meetings, even though spouse is home and perfectly able to hold the baby with no disruptions to their work.”

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              Yeah, this would be like hearing someone say they walk have to five miles to work and asking why they don’t just drive their car there instead.

      4. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I say this with all the empathy in the world, I really do, but sometimes life is triggering. Sometimes there are dueling accommodations. Sometimes things are uncomfortable. In a case like this, getting a new job would be your choice and that might be the right one. Offices with families aren’t going to stop having landmines for that kind of trauma just because the baby is off camera. But our reactions to things are our own responsibility, for the most part.

    8. RIP Pillow Fort*

      Well if the manager doesn’t have an issue with it what recourse would you have but to find a way to ignore it or if it’s a deal breaker leave the job so you don’t have to deal with it?

      The manager is in the meetings. They see the baby. They have not asked the co-worker to stop bringing the baby into meetings.

      Whether we agree with the choice or not, it doesn’t look likely to change. So you either bring up a concrete work reason (which is the strongest argument) or you work on what you can do to cope with this. Which pushing forward as if the baby wasn’t there is what I would do in that situation.

    9. Bast*

      I…am a bit on the fence with this one as long as the baby is not super disruptive. One thing about having meetings while everyone is working from home is that there will be disruptions and noises of life. Maybe for one it’s a baby, for another it’s a barking dog, construction going on outside the window, the upstairs neighbor banging around… there’s no way to completely eliminate life from going on around you outside the office. I have also been in the position of being forced to work from home while pregnant for 4 months at the beginning of the pandemic. Schools and daycare were shut down, so I had 2 young children at home with me while I worked. It was a nightmare, and I ended up crying and stressed nearly every day until things started opening back up. Surprisingly, when I brought this up to my boss, she mentioned even with children home my production was still among the highest in the office. It is entirely possible your boss does not care if she is a high performer. It is also possible that she is waiting for a daycare slot to open up. It’s much harder to place a baby than a toddler or preschooler. For example, the daycare might only have 7 slots for babies and 20 slots for preschoolers. You have to wait until someone either ages up or moves out of the program. Wait listing is common.

      1. Parakeet*

        For that matter, disruptions and noises of life also happen at meetings when people are working onsite! I can’t be the only one who’s ever had meetings disrupted by sounds coming through thin building walls, by outside construction, radiators making weird noises, climate control that’s not where I would prefer it to be, someone’s car alarm going off, etc.

    10. Lacey*

      Really? We must be having very different zoom meetings, because I can’t imagine anything easier to ignore, unless the baby is being quite noisy.

    11. Working Mom*

      My manager allows me to bring my baby to work because child care is hard to find/and unaffordable. My coworkers are amazing and love having the baby around. I have asked them to let me know if she is ever disruptive and I work hard to make sure she isn’t. My case is exceptional and I am very fortunate for this accommodation. If my coworkers can function with a baby literally in the office, I feel like LW1 needs to look a bit deeper at the issue with a baby on zoom because it doesn’t feel like it’s about the baby as much as she wants it to be.

      1. Reba*

        At my sibling’s previous job (pre panini) new parents were actually allowed to bring young babies into the office for a few months, as long as they weren’t disruptive! My sis was lucky in that her infant slept well and often, and it made a nice bridge between parental leave and putting the infant in daycare. (I think more/longer parental leave would clearly have been the better and more humane solution, especially bc not every baby is workplace compliant like this, but whatever)

        Now she’s in what is frankly a nightmare scenario in which the infant room at daycare (for her younger kid) is closing for lack of staff!! It is NOT easy out there.

    12. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree–I have never had a baby so maybe I am missing something, but I don’t see how a lack of childcare means the baby has to be literally *in her lap* for every meeting? That seems like something the employee is choosing to do for some reason, and I agree with LW that that would make it hard to have difficult conversations with her.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Some babies cry a LOT when they’re set down out of sight of their caregiver. Having the baby on her lap may make things quite easier on the mother–and everyone else in the meeting! And . . . the baby doesn’t understand English. Baby doesn’t know that OP is telling the team that Mom’s report is two days late and holding everything up.

      2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        Some babies just really want to be held! At that age, mine would only tolerate being down if he was asleep or we were actively playing with him or if we put him in a bouncy seat to watch a Baby Einstein (just long enough for a shower). We’re primates, after all, and if you think about the relative safety of a baby primate held by or clinging to an adult versus alone in a tree or on the ground, you’ll see it’s probably hard-wired in human babies, too.

      3. Jennifer Strange*

        I say this gently, but if you’ve never had a baby then you’re not really in a place to judge how this woman is choosing to approach this. My daughter screams her head off if she’s awake and we put her in a crib or playpen. Being in my lap is going to be much better for everyone.

        1. crchtqn2*

          I really am tired of some of these comments wondering why you can’t just stick a kid in a playpen for hours. Baby’s don’t work like dogs.

          1. Bread Crimes*

            Even my dog doesn’t like being ignored for hours on end if I’m around! As I discovered rapidly in March 2020 when I was suddenly teaching via Zoom from my bedroom. The dog was fine with ignoring all the voices from the laptop and me speaking at it, so long as he could hang out right next to me. Occasionally he walked across my lap and my students got a brief image of Adorable Dog.

            We all coped, somehow. But there would have been hysterical WAILING the whole class through if I’d tried to put him in another room, or keep him away from where I was sitting.

          2. inko*

            YES. The sheer number of people who think there’s a pause button on a baby and parents are just too stupid to find it.

      4. Astor*

        Yeah, this is definitely something that’s easier to understand if you’ve spent a lot of time around babies. I don’t have any children myself, but I have a lot of experience with them at various stages. Friends of mine, from various different friends groups, have told me that they often mentally slot me into the “understands kids like a parent does” exactly because of things like how I will put a baby into my lap and then start eating lunch, and including foods like soup that they needed more practice to handle.

        If you’re comfortable with a baby, and they’re not super upset, doing other things while they’re in your lap is fairly easy! You hold them with one arm for most of the time, and it’s easy to adjust to use two hands for the baby or two hands for the thing in front of you. And you have a whole lap that can give them movement to help them keep calm, where you automatically control the pace and intensity based on their reactions. You keep some of your attention on the baby, but because so much of it becomes instinct and by is done by tactile feedback, you actually need to focus on them much less than you would need to if they were somewhere else. It’s easy to recognize the way their mood is changing by how they move, and therefore even easier to redirect them to settle back down.

        If you’re not used to babies, it’s the opposite! You have to spend a lot more energy thinking about how to hold the baby, how to change that hold when they shift, and how to interact with whatever is in front of you. Holding a baby requires a lot of thought! For those people, it does require more effort to hold a baby and interact with them than it would to put them down even if you’re still interacting with them.

        But, yup, for someone who has spent a lot of time with babies, putting them in your lap is not just the most effective way for keeping them calm and quiet, but it also usually requires the least attention! I also suspect that spending the meeting time with her baby in her lap may make it easier to put the baby down when she does need to!

    13. Helewise*

      Of all the annoying things I’ve ever had to ignore in a meeting, a baby that is described as waving, not screaming, would be at the very bottom of the list. This feels more like an objection to breaking cultural norms that frankly haven’t served us all that well anyway.

      1. Ben*

        Agreed. I am honestly perplexed how anyone could be concerned about this. It’s a baby on a screen? With no evidence the mother’s work performance is suffering in any measurable way? Squarely in MYOB territory.

    14. Midwestern Communicator*

      As a new parent, all of the baby rooms are closed or completely full right now, in the suburbs of Chicago at least.

      I think there’s this attitude that people want to pretend kids don’t exist because of their situation, and it’s this kind of attitude that keeps women out of the work place, and makes people not want to have kids.

      Babies are the most expensive rate for daycares because of the high teacher to baby ratio. (it’s like 1 teacher for every 3 babies or something). It’s more than our mortgage, insurance, and property taxes monthly to send our baby to daycare for the month. They can’t hire enough teachers because there are better paying jobs out there. At least 10 daycares closed the first year of the pandemic in our area, and none have popped up in their place.

      I bet that mom doesn’t want her baby at home, it’s incredibly distracting for her! This person needs to focus on their own notes and give this working mom some space. It baffles me how hostile people are to working moms – I bend over backwards to make everything work and am a top producer for my company, even thought I work adjusted hours, and my kid has to join meetings sometimes because daycare is closed.

      If the manager is aware, OP needs to mind their own business. And commentators need to cut working parents some slack because our society isn’t doing it for sure. While some parents might abuse the system, the vast majority are doing what they can to get by.

    15. Observer*

      but that’s too much to ask of your coworkers to put up with and try to ignore.

      I think that that’s a real over-reaction.

      Now, if that person had written in I am sure that Alison would have told her to do her best to keep the baby off screen, and to ABSOLUTELY knock it off with the cutesy stuff.

      And if that person’s manager had written in, I’m sure the response would have been to have a serious conversation about managing the situation differently. And I really do wonder what her manager is thinking.

      But for coworkers? I get it, it’s annoying, silly and unprofessional. But if the baby is not actually making noises or grabbing at things and Mom is not having “conversations” with the baby during these meetings, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect people to internally roll their eyes and just deal. Just like any other annoying quirk.

      Note that if the baby is actually making noise or Mom is interacting with the baby, that does change things.

    16. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Huh. I am a total outlier on this topic. In the before days when I worked at an office all of my employers let people bring their kids into the office every day until they were either 6 or 9 months old as a way to help ease parents back into work after leave and to help promote bonding (Maternal-Child Health FTW). I’m so used to kids in IRL meetings that I don’t even notice them on remote meetings unless they make a noise. Honestly, they weren’t even disruptive, or any more disruptive, than any of the adults in meetings. In one case I swear the guy trained his daughter to cry at exactly 5 minutes past every meeting end for which we were all thankful.

      1. pugsnbourbon*

        I used to work in a child-heavy environment (think zoo) and I got so used to kids crying it didn’t even register. It still doesn’t even now, unless it’s the I’m-very-hurt-no-for-real-this-time crying that activates us on an evolutionary level.

    17. Esmeralda*

      I looooooove babies. I had one of my own, too. I don’t like seeing them at work, live or virtually. They are distracting, often not the baby but the reactions of other co-workers who will not stop cooing and squealing at the baby-yum-ums (that;s a quote, blarg)

      I would be annoyed by the co-worker and her baby in this situation, but I absolutely would not say one word about it and would just deal with it, the way I deal with my colleagues’ dogs, cats, loud chewing, tv blaring sports in the background etc etc. Unless it is impeding my work, then I would chat with my boss as to how to handle it.

      Also, is the coworker in this case making the baby wave at the start of the meeting? or all through the meeting? Just at the start — get over it yesterday, everybody does non-work nonsense at the start of meetings. All through the meeting — is it impeding your work? No? see above. Yes? talk to your boss.

      You can always minimize the view, you know, if it’s just the sight of baby-yum-ums that distracts you.

    18. A Mom*

      I’m really surprised no one is guessing that she’s feeding the baby slightly off screen (either breastfeeding or bottle feeding) after the baby says hi on screen. At 4 months, most of a baby’s wake time is eating or snuggling. Especially if breastfeeding, that is so much easier, quieter, and less distracting to do in a meeting than pumping! Also would make sense why someone else can’t take the baby at that time and why it seems to “always” happen—babies eat a lot!

    19. snarkfox*

      I’d be incredibly distracted by a baby. I’d in fact probably have to just minimize Zoom so I wouldn’t just sit there staring at the baby. And I think the fact that she makes the baby “wave” is obnoxious… kind of like it was cute the first few times when I made my cat wave at everyone, but now Zoom is such a way of life that we don’t really have to call attention to the distractions.

      But I still think it’s more of a “me” problem than this mom’s problem. I have ADHD and I am easily distracted by cute babies. As long as the person’s manager doesn’t have any problem with her work, I think it’s best to just let it go.

  4. Aimless and Abstract*

    OP 5 – Quit AND go after your earnings. If you keep working without getting paid, you’re getting deeper into the issues. Go find a job that will pay you.
    I have been there, and after the second missing paycheck, I said I would NOT be showing up for any more shifts until I was paid in full. That made the director flip out, and I had a check delivered to my home at 10 pm that night.
    Unfortunately it bounced, which meant a few of my checks to pay my bills bounced, and I was then done with that job. Took months and the involvement of the state labor board but I did get pay AND a small penalty (that covered the bounced check fees and not much more)

    1. EPLawyer*


      Remember the letter from the MANAGER who was all upset that her employee wanted to be paid ON TIME and CORRECTLY? HR had made some mistakes and were really trying to make up for it and the Manager was all angry about it.

      Alison’s advice then and NOW is spot on. Companies MUST pay you ON TIME. You are exchanging your labor for money. That’s the deal. If the employer fails to live up to their end of the agreement, you owe your employer no loyalty and little grace to “fix” this. This is one of those, Pay Me or I walk Situation. Because what are they going to do, fire you? You aren’t getting paid anyway. A place this disorganized isn’t going to give you a reference either. So you literally have nothing to lose at this point.

  5. Aimless and Abstract*

    OP1 – remember that your discomfort with the baby is YOUR discomfort, and her manager is her manager. Other than your own feelings, this is not your circus or monkeys. You can work on minimizing your discomfort all on your own. By dwelling on it, magnifying it, and constantly looking for examples of why it makes you uncomfortable, you’re making yourself more uncomfortable.
    Try instead offering compassion for the difficulties created by systemic childcare shortages and treat coworker as you would if baby wasn’t there.

    1. Cait*

      I had a coworker who was stuck at home with her toddler during the pandemic. At department one meeting she could be seen in the background playing catch with her daughter. She wasn’t paying attention or contributing to the conversation and the ball flying back and forth across the screen was a huge distraction. Even then, I knew enough to keep my mouth shut. If it was a big enough problem, I knew her manager would address it. Having a baby sit on a coworker’s lap and occasionally wave is not a big deal.

    2. LW / OP*

      Yup. PS When someone is being distracting in a meeting, I put a post-it note over the square with their video in it. I can hear them but not see them–so for all intents and purses their video is off for me.

      1. NOT THE LW / OP*

        Oops! I am NOT the LW or OP for this. I was for a letter a few days ago though. My computer must’ve saved the name. smh Sorry, all!

  6. BuildMeUp*

    #3 – I think you handled this well! And since it’s an intern position, it may be one of the candidate’s first interviews, so feedback is extra valuable.

    1. J!*

      Yes, this! I saw the heading and was prepared to be weirded out. A potential intern asking that question makes a ton of sense, and the feedback you gave them was great.

  7. Jessica*

    The baby situation may self-resolve. This child won’t always be small enough to peaceably hold on one’s lap for the duration of an entire work meeting. Its mother also knows this and is probably dealing with the additional stress of knowing her current arrangement won’t keep working indefinitely.

    1. Allonge*

      Also, if the negative feedback OP has to give has any impact on the baby, the mother may choose to not have the child with her next time.

      OP, I totally agree that it’s distracting to have kids / cats etc consistently in meetings, but your best option is still to ignore and proceed as if your coworker would be there alone.

      1. Corgis rock*

        The baby is around six months so it’s unlikely the feedback would have an affect on the baby unless the person giving the feedback was yelling (which is inappropriate) or the feedback is harsh enough that it causes major distress to the mother in which case it’s probably not the kind of feedback that should be given by a peer nor should it be given in front of coworkers.

        1. Observer*

          Yes. I’ve been trying to figure out what kind of feedback the OP is talking about, because it really seems weird.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            The (admittedly) uncharitable side of me wonders if she recognizes that the baby isn’t really distracting anyone and threw in the feedback piece as the best reason to give for why she was uncomfortable about it.

        2. Allonge*

          We have read here about several people whose standard reaction to any negative feedback is crying (RSD or otherwise). I was thinking more of the mother gets upset – baby gets upset kind of thing of course, not OP yelling, but that too is something a mother may decide she won’t want to repeat again.

  8. Tinkerbell*

    OP5: This is embarrassing to admit now, but I once had a job where I wasn’t paid for FIVE MONTHS. I was a college student and didn’t want to go on my choir’s spring break trip. I hemmed and hawed at the music director and implied that money was the reason (it was $2K IIRC). Technically I had the money, but I didn’t want to spend it on a week’s working vacation! My director was SO nice about it, though, and ended up bending over backwards to get me a job in the music department that was normally only work-study students. I started the job in January, ended up going on the trip, and had a great time.


    I kept not getting paid, and not getting paid, and not getting paid. The job was very part-time (less then ten hours a week), my boss was a total flake, and HR was off-campus and I didn’t have a car, so I kept accepting the department secretary’s excuses. Most of them boiled down to blaming me for not having done X (often when it was something I really had done). She had a MAJOR chip on her shoulder about me not being work-study, I think, and simply didn’t feel like helping me. Maybe she felt I was lying because I did go on the trip even though I hadn’t gotten paid yet?

    Anyway, it ended up taking the entire semester and two trips to the physical HR office before I finally got paid. I had literally finished the semester and left the state. HR ended up ignoring my five months worth of part-time work and pretending I was on campus working full-time for a few weeks in June so they could just pay me already. I’m sure this was blatantly illegal and probably broke all sorts of rules, but by that point I’d graduated and never went back to campus so I never found out if anything happened to my boss or the stonewalling secretary.

    I’d never tolerate that now, but at the time I was 22, still new to the working world, and way too shy to speak up for myself!

    1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

      I mean, you wouldn’t want them to think you had some big britches just because you wanted paying……

        1. Nea*

          The manager’s audacity is breathtaking, but what Jane said is the perfect script for LW5 to drop on Payroll this very minute. Word-for-word, delivered in person.

      1. MurpMaureep*

        That was the letter that got me hooked on reading AAM! Not only because the letter itself was so horrifying but because the response was so amazing.

    2. rinathin*

      I swear, college payroll is always a mess. I got paid by them for two different things: my UTA (undergrad teaching assistant) job and a research internship. I did the former for years, and every single year we had to re-enroll in direct deposit for whatever reason. Payday was three weeks after a pay period, and they just shrugged at us when we tried to complain. And then there was the semester that they had issues getting us into payroll to begin with, and it was weeks before we could even submit our timesheets. What were we going to do, quit? (We adored the professor, and he basically had us running the class, so it would have collapsed if we striked.)

      Then there was the research internship. I did it for a few months and was moving around for the summer, so getting the checks to the right place (I don’t remember if direct deposit was even an option) was a complete mess. At some point I thought I lost a check in the mail so I had them cancel it, but they instead cancelled a different check and told me tough luck, you told us to cancel the checks, eat the $20 bounce fee. Then when I was finally done they kept sending me checks. I literally had to contact them and beg them to stop paying me.

      1. helenteds*

        Are all universities like this? My college has had campus employment for years, but from what I have heard, they mess up people’s paychecks regularly. I only recently took some temporary employment with them, fundraising by calling alumni, and they did not get my paycheck right. At least the person in charge of this fundraising thing seems to be willing to bother payroll to fix this and make sure I get paid.

    3. Kella*

      When I was that age, I worked at a new bakery managed by a guy who literally knew nothing about running a business. I was working 60 hours a week, sometimes more, and being paid a flat $500 a week. Minimum wage was $8.80 at the time, so I wasn’t being paid for at least 4 hours of work a week and zero overtime pay. The manager had heard that if you paid someone a “salary” that they could work as many hours as needed. He knew nothing about all the other rules that had to be followed, like what sort of jobs qualify or that you have to have a minimum salary that was definitely higher than what we were making. They also weren’t having us report tips as income and the manager was taking all of the tips left by debit card to be used to pay the bills instead of the employees. They were breaking SO MANY LAWS. I remember trying to tell him once about the salary law and he was like, “Where’d you hear that?” I told him the Oregon department of labor website, and he was like, “That’s not a thing. You can’t just go on a random website and believe what it says.”

      I had a nervous breakdown from the stress of the job and after taking a single day off to recover, I proposed a new schedule that would allow me to take care of all my responsibilities within 40 hours, and not require me to wake up at 6am every day (a thing my body just can’t deal with long term.) The proposal was rejected and the owner let me go. I filed for unemployment but was denied because he said I had refused to follow the basic terms of the job. What were the basic terms? Being on-site at the same time everyone else was, because reasons.

      I sometimes feel frustrated that I didn’t do anything about it at the time. But the reality was, I was a 22-year-old who knew nothing about labor laws or self-advocacy, and the business was already in a ton of debt, despite having lots of customers. I don’t know that I ever would’ve gotten my money anyway.

  9. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

    I often think that a post about wage theft and how many companies treat it as part of ordinary business would be interesting and edifying.

      1. Salsa Verde*

        + 1 to this – it drives me batty when local news is always talking about crime and how horrible the “inner city” is, but we never hear about this crime that has probably touched a significant majority of Americans.

        1. Lydia*

          I remember learning about this when I was just a budding still-in-college sociologist. It was a class about deviance and my professor talked about it in strictly economic terms, that “white collar” crime costs people billions every year while property or violent crimes cost much less. This didn’t get into the emotional toll, of course, but he was discussing it from the part that really rubs Americans the wrong way: how much does it cost?

      2. Thursday Next*

        Exactly, wage theft is a much bigger issue than shoplifting, but the news generally loves to inflate people’s perception of the latter and ignore the former.

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

      Yes, but wage theft is usually much more subtle than whole missing paychecks. At the start of my career I worked at a place that required us to clock in/out for our mandatory PAID 10 minute breaks and assured us that we would be paid for them, they just wanted to track the time to make sure it wasn’t a minute over 10 minutes. Unless we did the math on each of our paychecks including all of the deductions and taxes etc., we’d never miss the $10.00* that was missing. Sounds like such an honest and minor error until you do the math on all of us being shorted ~$10 per paycheck.

      *for example $.50 each break, so $1.00 per day x 10 days per paycheck

      1. Fitz*

        That’s what makes me so upset about these situations. There are fewer protections for workers in the US than in other countries, and there are lots of subtle ways that companies get away with wage theft (like your breaks example). It’s so clearly illegal not to pay someone at all, and employers should never get away with it!

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      My college friend got a job at a local motel. They said that they started people on training wages (less than minimum wage), and once they were fully trained, they’d move up to minimum wage. She worked nearly full time for the 2 weeks or month (or two) it took for the alleged training. And then, when she was finally moved to minimum wage, her hours dropped off to almost nothing, while they hired others to be trained.

      I had told her it was illegal, they couldn’t pay her less than minimum wage. But it was still a job and some money, and she wasn’t willing to endanger that. Just like the other college students hired. And none of us knew about going after wages after the fact, that the government would have helped her recover what she was owed. And stopped the scam, for that matter.

  10. Emmy Noether*

    My reaction to #1 is mostly just awe that there are babies where this is even possible (for a significant number of meetings at pre-planned times and not just once as a fluke).

    The biggest complaint is that the baby looks too cute! Not crying, wailing, screaming, gurgling, squirming, spitting up, urgent need to interrupt for any number of things, no, no just being too cute. Where can one find such a baby? What sorcery is required? Because I may want one like that, and may be prepared to use dark magic.

    /joking, obviously.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Mine would have been– extravert since birth, as long as she was sat on my knee with people to look at, everything’s fine. Laid down or left alone– OH NO WOLVES WILL GET ME, WOLVES ARE COMING, HELP, SAVE ME.

      1. AnonyChick*

        You are more charitable than I: I referred to that cry (of my nephew’s; I’m happily child-free, myself) as “I’M BOOOOOORRRRRED!!! COME PLAY WITH ME!!! OR LET ME EAT YOUR FINGERS, OR STARE AT YOU!!! I’M BOOOORRRRED!!!” But same thing, with the “oh, people to look at, and a human to sit on? I’m good. I’ll take something to chew on, though, if you’ve got anything…yup, perfect!”

        1. bamcheeks*

          It was much more heart-broken than that! Her younger sister is (and has always been), “Oi! This is unsatisfactorily! I deserve only the very finest treatment and I demand to speak to the management!” But for the elder one it was the deepest existential angst, absolutely terrified and inconsolable.

    2. BethDH*

      I had a newborn during Covid (was back from maternity leave and we started lockdown a week later) and whoever had a zoom call had the baby because he was totally happy when he felt like a bunch of people were looking at him. My spouse or I would generally wear him so that our hands were free but the hardest days were the ones where we both had work to get done with no meetings. And then the kid started crawling and that stopped working!

    3. ScruffyInternHerder*

      At 6 months old, Scruff-the-oldest would have been like this. Was like this. The kidling frequently sat in my lap while contemplating own toes while I worked.

      Never in the lifespan of Scruff-the-youngest would this have EVER worked. Ever. Even in the “newborn baby lump stage”. Because “Busy, Momma, Busy.”

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

      My coworker had a baby right at the start of the pandemic (so he’s 2-years now and this is no longer an issue). She says that he would be the quietest baby the whole day right up until SHE started talking during a video meeting :-) …mama’s talking, it’s time to talk. Hearing other people talking didn’t do it, it was just the minute she’d unmute and start presenting, lol.

  11. Chris*

    #1, get a post-it to cover cute baby’s mom on zoom
    #5, I would’ve been sat in HR the first paycheck I didn’t get

  12. Mary*

    #5 It sounds like your supervisor is not doing everything in her power to get this sorted. You need to get her moving on getting you paid asap. Not sure if you are onsite or remote but you need to have your supervisor make it her number 1 priority today. She knows how the system works in your company way better than you do. Demand your wages be paid immediately, follow up constantly. Ask has she escalated this and to who and what action has been taken. Follow up with everyone and demand they take action. You deserve to be paid today.

    1. Camelid coordinator*

      Somewhat similarly, I started a part-time nonprofit job in June, and it took a month to figure out how to get paid. I finally went around the person I had been asking and asked a different staff member what I needed to do to get set up in the system. I like the idea of lighting a fire under your supervisor so that they help figure this out or just contacting anyone and everyone in HR you have information for. Make it a big deal because it is.

      1. Corgis rock*

        And it’s ridiculous that you even needed to figure out how to be paid. Day one you should have been walked through that process.

        1. JustaTech*

          I had a fellow summer research student who was completely flat broke before he worked up the nerve to ask our (super nice and chill) boss about why he wasn’t getting paid. The boss didn’t actually know (because this kid was on a different system than me), but he stopped everything and hiked around (in the ~100F heat) to every office on campus until he made sure that his student was going to get paid. (And then made a point of bringing a *ton* of snacks on our field visit the next day to make sure the poor kid had something to eat until the paycheck cleared.)

          What I learned was 1) don’t wait to ask about getting paid, and 2) as a boss it is your responsibility to make sure that your people are getting paid.

  13. philmar*

    “Is the baby distracting?” Uh, the parent is having the baby wave at people. Sounds like they are actively trying to be distracting and definitely concentrating on the baby over the meeting.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not clear to me if she’s just waving the baby’s hand to people at the start of the meeting when everyone’s saying hi, or if it keeps happening after that. Those would be two very different situations (one unreasonably distracting and one not).

      1. HannahS*

        I also wonder if the mother is simply wiggling the child’s arm to stimulate them. My child used to grab only my finger and want me to “wave” her arm back and forth. She found it distracting, and it helped her stay calm longer. It would have looked like waving, but it’s not directed at anyone.

        1. Jeebs*

          Yes, this is also what I was envisioning. I’ve known a lot of babies who needed that kind of movement to keep quiet/occupied in social situations.

          I feel like the issue here may be that LW (and many people responding) simply are not used to being around babies. I’m childfree myself but many people I love have babies, I’ve spent a lot of time around them. Yes, the baby can be distracting even when quiet and still – because your brain is wired to pay attention to a baby. That’s part of our wiring as humans, and it’s happening in your own head. It’s not the baby’s fault, nor is it the mom’s. It’s just something you adapt to. If a baby is going to be present (physically or virtually), as long as the baby is calm and quiet, it’s on you to learn to coexist with the baby, not on the baby to stop existing.

      2. jesicka309*

        See, I can see it being both ways, like saying hello when the meeting first starts, then as the meeting goes on, baby gets a little bored and mum starts trying to keep baby entertained….look at the screen baby, can you see the faces baby, look I’m waving your hand and the baby on the screen’s hand waves….so to the other people on the line it looks like the baby is waving at everyone all meeting, but in reality it’s just the mum using the camera like a mirror. My babies LOVED mirrors and right up until now (2 and 4) they still prefer to look at their own faces when we Facetime family.
        The mum might not even realise it’s distracting to others at all! She may just think that the camera is entertaining her baby so she can listen/talk, forgetting that to everyone else it’s not a mirror.

    2. to varying degrees*

      Agree. It sounds like she is having the baby continually wave throughout the meeting. That needs to stop.

      1. Thursday Next*

        I don’t get that impression at all. It sounds she’s just being cutesy when greeting people.

  14. Green great dragon*

    LW2, perhaps you could have a loud conversation about how you have delivered many beautiful pieces of work and not once has your supervisor sent you a thank you note. Needs to be properly handwritten of course.

    1. Pookie*

      I was having this same thought. As a high level manager I would never expect thanks for something people have earned. It is not a gift from a benevolent entity.

      1. ferrina*

        I once had a team member thank me for a raise. I felt so awkward! Like, um, that was you, not me. You got the raise because you’re a great worker. I just did the paperwork (and yelled a bit at the higher ups to make sure he got his raise- but again, that’s just showing up and doing my job).

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I would actually be mortified if someone sent me a thank-you note for their wage increase/bonus. It’s the company’s way of saying thank you *to the employee* for doing a good job and continuing to work here.

  15. Empress Ki*

    1 : If you’re her peer and her manager is okay with that, it’s not really your business unless the baby makes noise that distract you.

    1. addiez*

      Yeah, I actually think Alison missed the mark on this one. I think this isn’t your business. Perhaps the manager does have a huge problem with it and is addressing it. Unless you see something the manager doesn’t, then I think just try to mentally put this one out of your head. Otherwise, the manager knows and is either ok with it or addressing it.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      This right here. If the manager is on the meeting with the baby then they are aware of the situation and don’t have a problem with it. LW is just going to have to learn to live with the distraction. I like the post-it idea so she doesn’t have to look at the baby

  16. Luna*

    LW1 – Babies overall should be kept away from work meetings, even video ones. (Maybe it’s okay like if it were a pet. It appears on camera, everyone coos or talks about how pretty the pet is, and then everyone goes back to business. But that’s the difference with babies and pets, pets tend to be autonomous enough that they wander off on their own or lie down in the background and nap.)

    If it really distracts you a lot, so that you can’t concentrate on what is being said, you could perhaps ask your coworker in a private message if they could keep the baby at least off-camera.
    Maybe there’s a reason why the baby has to be on their lap instead of lying in a crib or similar.
    If this keeps being an issue, even after you talked to your coworker about it, perhaps then you can talk to the manager and mention that the baby’s presence distracts a lot from the focus on work, making it difficult for you to listen to what is being said. As always, focus on how the situation affects you and your ability to work well, not on how the coworker ‘shouldn’t’ have their baby there.

    LW2 – I would be tempted to send the most passive-aggressive thank you note to them, citing that I am grateful that they have acknowledge the hard work I have been doing for the past year (or longer, depending on the last raise), and that they compensate my time, energy, and skills in a monetary fashion, as is the case when it comes to work.

    I don’t recall ever being raised with thank you notes, and it seems like America seems a bit more ‘into’ them than Germany here. But the only thank yous I send might be to my grandmother, thanking her for the birthday or Christmas gift. Never to my boss for paying me or even to an interviewer. (I think I sent one once and it felt so awkward. Like, “Thank you for doing your part of the deal of agreeing to an interview” kinda vibe is what I got from writing it.)

    LW5 – Stop working for them, immediately. No pay, no work. You don’t give money for skills or time, you don’t get the skills or time. It’s like being a prostitute: money for service or you can take a hike.

    1. abca*

      A main reason to have the baby not in a crib is that if the baby needs a small bit of attention they may make a large amount of noise and you will have to get up and walk to the crib and that will be much more distracting for everyone than just having the baby in your lap.
      Taken the question as described, it seems the baby is not actually doing distracting things, and the main concern is about giving difficult feedback with the baby present. That’s concerning too because what kind of difficult feedback do you regularly give to a coworker in a team meeting? That seems completely the wrong place for that.

      1. Seashell*

        I agree. And the baby has no idea if anyone is saying, “You got a raise” or “You’re fired” or anything in between. If LW is uncomfortable, that’s her problem to get over.

        1. Lacey*

          Yeah, I thought it was weird that she couldn’t give normal feedback because of the baby! Is she yelling in her normal feedback? Because that’s the only way I can think it would bother an infant.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I don’t think she is worried about bothering the infant, but it’s still weird to give negative feedback while literally looking at somebody’s baby. I’m really surprised at how much pushback the LW is getting here. I’d agree that there is probably not anything they can do about it, but I don’t think they are wrong for feeling the way that they do.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              I don’t see anyone saying the LW is wrong for feeling weird about it, but that it’s just not her place to do anything about it. There are lots of times it might feel weird to give someone negative feedback, but that feeling is still on you (general you, not you specifically), not the other person.

            2. Jeebs*

              It’s normal to feel weird at first, yes. I think I’d feel weird giving negative feedback to someone holding a baby as well. But my response wouldn’t be ‘how do I make the baby not be involved’, it would be working on getting comfortable with the baby existing in that context. That’s why LW is getting pushback – because her assumption is that her discomfort means the baby shouldn’t be there.

              I assume people saying they don’t understand why it would be uncomfortable are probably either parents or people with a lot of experience simply having babies around. They’re used to having adult/negative conversations with baby present.

        2. Luna*

          There is always the possibility of the coworker being visibly upset and the baby, as babies are wont to do, can somehow tell and start screaming. Maybe that’s what OP is concerned about?

          1. alienor*

            Possibly, but also the OP shouldn’t be giving feedback in a group meeting that’s so harsh/heated that it makes a coworker visibly upset, whether they have a baby or not. I suppose it’s possible that this coworker is super sensitive and bursts into tears at the slightest negative word, but it feels like OP would have mentioned that in their letter.

    2. bicality*

      Re: thank you notes – the perfunctory and/or obligatory thank you is something that irks me, for some reason. My spouse will thank me for making a family meal every time and I just… like I was making food for me, too, this is part of daily living. I know it’s perfectly normal and polite, but it grates on my nerves!

      (Although the thank you for the interview doesn’t bother me quite so much as it’s an opportunity to close a loop.)

      1. Robin*

        I thank my partner often when he makes dinner and he will do the same. It feels like “thanks for doing this so I did not have to” and a kind of acknowledgement that making dinner is effort and labor that should not be taken for granted. I am more likely to say thank you when I am particularly tired/drained and the fact that he made dinner meant I did not even have to think about it. That said, we do not thank each other *every time* and I completely see how that could become automatic and meaningless.

        1. Gracely*

          Same. My spouse and I thank each other all the time for things we are glad the other person did so that we didn’t have to. Yeah, it had to get done because daily life, but when it’s something you don’t want to do and the other person steps up (even if they always step up), it’s worth acknowledging that you don’t take them/their efforts for granted.

          Though the way bicality phrases it, it kinda sounds like they *do* want their effort to be taken for granted, so to each their own, I suppose.

          1. bicality*

            I know, I know, it’s kind of whacked. It’s more of a difference in how my spouse and I grew up. I had to be exceptional to earn gratitude/approval; my spouse’s family very highly valued manners. So in this particular situation, I don’t feel I’ve done anything exceptional to earn the gratitude, so the gratitude feels perfunctory and part of polite society. I’m certainly not saying it’s wrong (I don’t begrudge my spouse), and I do value expressing and receiving sincere gratitude!

            To put it another way, if you take the normal things I do “for granted,” it’s because you view me as a competent person who can do The Things.

            1. bicality*

              And to bring this back to the workplace (and to clear myself of being suspected of being yesterday’s OP who had nothing nice to say to her employee that wanted praise) – as a manager and co-worker, I have worked very hard to correct my family of origin “excellence only” delivery of gratitude and praise. I generally focus on the WHY of why I am thankful for someone to do XYZ – how it’s contributed to the team, etc. I just apparently never want someone to thank me.

            2. Emmy Noether*

              Your background and situation sounds very similar to my spouse’s and mine.

              He likes to thank me for random household tasks and likes to be thanked. At first it weirded me out a bit – I’m just doing my fair share, as is he! Thanks are only for extras! But it has grown on me. It costs nothing and sort of sets a nice tone, you know? Like greeting each other, which is also formulaic, but nice.

      2. The Person from the Resume*

        As Alison has said that “thank you” note for a interview is really a follow up email (not note) as you said to close the loop. At one point, it may have been a just a thanks but it’s moved beyond that.

  17. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    LW4 – I had a similar situation many years ago – they offered me the job, but it just didn’t feel right, so I declined.

    The recruiter wouldn’t let it go, kept ringing saying that he’d got the company to make some changes to the job (none of which made any difference) and he couldn’t understand why I didn’t change my mind.

    After a phone call from the boss of the company, they finally agreed(!) to let it go.

    Cue a phone call from the recruiter berating me for having the temerity to not take the job, and saying he wouldn’t be putting me forward for any further vacancies. Fine by me!

    A few months later, got a phone call from someone else at the same agency asking if I was still looking for work, and if I wanted them to put me forward for any vacancies. I replied in the negative.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I know a recruiter horror story open thread might be unfair to the conscientious and often villainized recruiters who frequent this site – but these stories always make my head boggle.

  18. Turingtested*

    LW 1, I’m on your side for “no babies in meetings except for rare emergencies” but I can’t explain myself. It sounds like the baby isn’t disruptive, it’s the principle of it. I have an 18 month old and generally like kids and babies.

    Anyway, I think that it situations like this, where I’m bothered by something because it seems improper or not what I would do but not for a tangible reason, I need to deal with it.

    Doubtless other people feel the way you do and your coworker is probably damaging her reputation. However I’m not sure it should.

    1. Observer*

      You say that you are bothered by “the principle of the thing”. I would suggest that you think about what principle is being violated. And whether that principle is really important.

      As for the rest, I think that you have a very good attitude.

      1. Lydia*

        It’s not really necessary for the soul-searching if they recognize it makes no sense. Sometimes you can acknowledge you think it’s weird you feel that way and move on. Especially if it’s as innocuous as this and isn’t actually causing harm.

    2. Jenn*

      Certainly a parent doing the same thing with a five year old would be where would all these people who think it’s okay draw the line? Don’t little babies understand tone enough where it’s reasonable to think that correcting their parent in front of them would be weird?

      1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        The five year old can reasonably be expected to go without parental attention for the duration of a meeting. Though I’d draw the line around a year – even the best-behaved toddlers aren’t likely to sit quietly through a meeting.

        But if you’re using the sort of tone that’s likely to upset an infant when you “correct” your coworkers in a meeting, you’re much further outside professional norms than the mom is here.

      2. inko*

        If LW is speaking harshly enough to her coworkers for her tone to upset a small baby, then her tone is far more unprofessional than anything this coworker is doing. They understand tone but it’s not as nuanced as all that, not at a few months old.

    3. Eyes Kiwami*

      I think most people actually agree that babies don’t belong in meetings except for rare emergencies. The difference is that the pandemic has caused childcare shortages, so it’s just one long ongoing emergency…

  19. Sotired*

    LW1, is there an undercurrent here? I have a coworker who does this, BUT she is also one of the most productive people on my team. If (and note I am saying IF), the person with the baby is not productive, having the baby on camera is only going to annoy co-workers. To me the real issue, is having a co-worker presumably working from home without child care. The pandemic has gone on long enough. But if your boss does not do anything, not much you can do. But I have seen situations like this end up with coworkers cutting their productivity

    1. Fishsticks*

      Man, I wish someone would tell the pandemic that the pandemic has gone on long enough.

      I think it comes down to this – is this baby actually causing a problem, or LW1 feeling like a problem is being caused because it isn’t what they are used to? A little wave at the beginning of the meeting isn’t causing harm. And the baby doesn’t care what tough feedback you give its mother. If she’s muted her mic, and work continues without a slowdown in her productivity, I don’t see the problem.

      But I think “well, just get child care” is kind of hilarious to say when we are facing a serious and significant shortage of, well, child care.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        Exactly this. Even if we could declare that the pandemic is over, lack of childcare doesn’t go away. Some centers closed for good. childcare workers are in very short supply. People who worked there prepandemic needed to take other jobs when centers were closed and some never came back since the likely were able to find better paying jobs elsewhere. It’s a mess. My kids are past the daycare age, but I cannot imagine the stress there’s parents feel. I was stressed out any time I needed to leave work early because of a sick kid.

        This is why people were in pushing for childcare to be a part of the infrastructure bill. It’s vital to our society. Yet it’s seen as not that important. People can just have family do!/s

        1. Juggling Plunger*

          Also, the distribution of childcare changed. Where I am, it was never that hard to find care for a 3 year old, but infants were way harder. Now it’s still not that hard to find care for a 3 year old, but the infant care situation has gone from bad to truly dire (our center cut its number of infant slots in half, so this year the only people who got in were kids who already had a sibling at the center), but they actually expanded their pre-k program.

      2. Observer*

        Keep in mind, it’s not just the pandemic. Even prior, it was hard to keep child care staffed and affordable.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Three of my coworkers don’t have child care because their mom/dad/aunt/uncle who was the caregiver is dead and another 5 are now caring for their kids and their former caretaker who is now disabled from COVID. These folks never could afford childcare in the before times, hence using family. They can’t just magic their kids away or older now that they have no care. Folks need to get a grip and deal with this or more parents will be forced to leave the workforce.

      4. Thursday Next*

        “This famine has gone on long enough! People need to stop complaining about starving and be well-fed already!”

        Yeah the pandemic isn’t over and we’re going into winter now. We’re all still in this.

        1. Lydia*

          Seriously. Wear a mask, get vaccinated if you can, and stop pretending everything is done with. It’s not. And for all we know, this parent can get childcare, and, like a lot of other parents in the world right now, is choosing not to put their baby in childcare because serious respitory infections are increasing and pediatric floors are overrun by children getting horribly ill with things that aren’t COVID.

    2. Lacey*

      I totally get how it could feel different depending on the coworker. Two of my coworkers had babies recently. One has always been very competent and the other has always been terrible. Since they had their babies nothing has really changed – but if the second one had her baby with her for meetings we’d probably complain that a person who already can’t do her job shouldn’t be adding a baby into the mix.

    3. anonarama*

      100,000 workers have left the childcare sector. Pre-pandemic it was difficult to find infant care. And honestly that little window between between 4 and 6 months makes such a difference in terms of ease of finding care. This is a problem that will solve itself

      1. Slightly Above Average Bear*

        It’s getting worse too. It’s always been a low paid, high burn out career. Add understaffing and disparate wages (degreed lead teachers who have been there for years are paid less than aides because centers need competitive wages to hire, but can’t afford to increase existing salaries)

      1. gingergene*

        Obviously, the Pandemic’s manager needs sit down with it and explain clearly that this issue has gone on too long, and changes need to be made immediately. Does the Pandemic think they can do that? Or is it time to start a discussion about a transition, since we can no longer keep the Pandemic around if it’s not going to be productive and cooperative. After that, the manager can sit down with the Child Care Industry and have a similar conversation.

        It will be a tough couple of days, but after that? Problem. Solved.

        Honestly, why does nobody think of these things but me?

      2. Gracely*

        I mean, yeah, it has definitely gone on for a long ass time, but saying it doesn’t make it magically not be a pandemic any more. And even if it was over (which, in some ways, having a vaccine has made it feel like it has ended for certain people), we’re still dealing with the consequences of the pandemic, which others have highlighted, many of which exacerbated the already-difficult problem of finding childcare.

        I’m childfree and even I get this. No one *wants* to have trouble finding childcare. No one *wants* to still be dealing with the pandemic. But reality is what it is.

  20. LlamaLawyer*

    LW2- I have never heard of a thank you for a raise. I have received thank you from staff for end of year bonuses on multiple occasions in both orgs where I have been in a higher up role. By no means is it expected and it was a very small percentage of individuals.

    1. the cat's ass*

      I really campaigned for a raise a couple of jobs back and my boss went to bat for me when the board dragged their feet. So I thanked her for doing that, because the board made it unpleasant and messy.

    2. The Original K.*

      Particularly for what sounds like a standard COL increase. If everyone got 15% raises, maybe, but a 1-3% COL increase that comes reliably every year? (And even if it doesn’t, frankly.)

    3. Gracely*

      I thanked my boss when he went to bat for me to get moved into the correct salary band, but even then, it was me saying “thank you for doing that”, not a thank you note.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Come to think of it, I did say thank you (verbal and in-the-moment) to my boss the year she got me a particularly generous bonus, but it was more of a thank-you-for-acknowledging-the-Herculean-effort-I-put-forth-in-the-face-of-A-LOT than, hey, thanks for the cash.

  21. Hiring Mgr*

    #1 you should let it go. You’re not the manager, the manager is aware, and it doesn’t seem to be a hindrance to anything except you giving “tough feedback” .

  22. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

    I want to know what kind of difficult/tough feedback LW1 wants to give to a person she doesn’t manage. This is something she mentioned twice in her letter, so it must be an important part of the equation.

    Maybe LW1 has some serious issues with her colleague’s work and finds it hard enough to talk about those issues at all, made even more difficult in her eyes because the colleague is taking care of her baby when LW1 wants to deliver the message.

    LW1, I think you should take the baby out of your calculations. It’s the colleague’s job to take in and respond to appropriate criticism, and if the baby is a distraction that’s on her and her manager. If the colleague isn’t responsive, talk to her manager about your issues not being addressed because that’s the real problem. Whether it’s the baby or some other reason your colleague isn’t addressing them is for her manager to deal with.

    1. Emily*

      Agreed. If the LW is already annoyed because her coworker is not so great at her job, and this feels like just another unwelcome addition to that, that’s a real thing that deserves thinking about and raising with the manager.

    2. Global Cat Herder*

      I keep trying to imagine what “tough feedback” would be appropriate to give a PEER that is simultaneously

      (A) appropriate to give in front of peer’s manager but
      (B) inappropriate to give in front of peer’s baby

      That’s the named impact – LW1 can’t give tough feedback – but I’m really stuck trying to figure out why that scenario exists in the first place and why the baby’s presence on mute changes that.

      1. CharlieBrown*

        Baby hears tough feedback, gets enraged, throws bottle at screen, grabs mic, shouts “How DARE you speak to my mother like that!”

      2. Cj*

        It sounds like there are multiple people in these meetings, so she really shouldn’t be getting critical feedback in front of everybody else even if it is her job.

        1. Lydia*

          Someone mentioned previously, and I agree, the feedback thing is a red herring. It’s an excuse to give some sort of justification for something that’s really just a preference.

    3. Lydia*

      “Look, I didn’t want to say this in front of the baby, but…It’s ugly. It’s an ugly baby. We all know it. I think you know it. It’s distracting to have such an ugly baby on the Zoom call and we would all feel better if you just turned off your camera.”

  23. BRR*

    #5 if you’re in person, stop by peoples offices. When you’re not paid, you’re allowed to frequently follow up with people and do so via email, IM, phone, or whatever other method you want.

  24. Poppy*

    LW#2: I worked for a very small business and the owner (our only boss) expected a heartfelt thank you for our contractually obligated bonuses (commission and after hours fees) and regular paychecks. He really did see employing us as doing us a favor. I can’t imagine what he would have expected if he gave us a raise. We were just told to work 70+ hours a week and see more clients if we wanted more money! He refused to use direct deposit because then he couldn’t get thanked for handing us a paper check at a time in the evening he thought we deserved it. That was often after 8 pm on a Friday.

    Bosses like this will really mess with your self esteem and making you feel small is just part of the game. They want you to feel like you don’t deserve any better so you won’t leave. I did leave after having panic attacks coming into work on a regular basis for 4 years. I work what he calls “part time” (35-40 hours a week) and make almost double. He was extremely angry about this and lashed out hard so watch out for that as well. Well adjusted managers don’t expect gratitude in exchange for being paid for your labor.

    1. Fishsticks*

      Yep, also worked for a small business owner who thought every single dollar we were paid was a personal gift from her to us, and asking for raises was a personal insult against her because wasn’t she ALREADY paying us (minimum wage and only over if she absolutely had to)?

      She is also one of the “nobody wants to work anymore” types.

      1. rinathin*

        I also also worked for a small business owner who absolutely refused to pay above minimum wage and grumbled when said min wage increased and he had to pay us more. As far as I recall he didn’t even give managers increased pay, at least not enough to matter. At least this was a dollar store where all of us were teenagers in high school or college, and he let me work 7 hours every Saturday just to get some spending money. Though supposedly he quietly didn’t hire boys/men for whatever internalized sexist reason…

    2. CharlieBrown*

      Exactly. This was my last boss. Born on second base and thought he had hit a double, and was doing everybody a favor by paying them and “giving” them raises and bonuses. Not a gift–we worked hard and earned that money.

      That was just one of a long list of things that made that work toxic.

      1. Poppy*

        My boss “bought” the business from his father and it was already well established by the time he started running it. Unfortunately in my prior field it used to be that EVERYONE wanted to do this (dangerous, underpaid, horrible on your body) job and new grads were clamoring for positions. In the last decade it has shifted hard the other way largely due to student debt. You can’t afford to live on $50k with $200k+ in student loans if you can get a job in a related field making $100k to start with normal hours. Businesses can’t find enough qualified employees and they’re in the mindset of “no one wants to work anymore.” It’s more like “no one wants to work a minimum of 50 hours a week for peanuts and risk their life every day.” They also have competed so hard with each other and lowered prices so much that clients expect everything to be cheap or free. To me the business owners dug their own grave on this one.

    3. EPLawyer*

      “Well adjusted managers don’t expect gratitude in exchange for being paid for your labor.”

      PREACH IT.

      You exchange labor for money. That’s the deal. It’s a business transaction, not a personal favor.

  25. CharlieBrown*

    I have a meeting twice a week with a coworker who is holding her baby.

    The meetings are fifteen minutes long, we each speak for about five minutes on average, it’s an audio meeting (why do people insist on video?), and it’s not a terrible thing. It’s not even a thing.

    But….these are short meetings. And there’s no video. LW doesn’t really mention how long these meetings go on. If the meetings are short, LW needs to learn to cope. This is definitely an LW thing.

    But if the meetings are long and not terribly productive, that is the angle LW could use. And could perhaps suggest that not all of them need to be video.

  26. L-squared*

    #1. I find what Alison, and others, consider problems vs. ok on zoom meetings to be quite interesting. I distinctly remember previous posts about vaping in zoom meetings where people found that completely unprofessional, even though it was in their own home and not actually affecting others. But the idea that it could be distracting to other people was enough to say “don’t do it”. This woman has a baby in EVERY meeting, and the advice is essentially “if its distracting, thats on you and you need to figure it out”. I can say personally, I would find the presence of a child far more distracting than someone vaping on occasion (I don’t smoke myself, so that has nothing to do with it). If this was something that was happening once in a while because her daycare closed, that would be one thing. But this seems excessive. Hell, I find it excessive when people have their dogs in every meeting sitting with them. I’m not sure why some things are on the other members to get over, whereas some things are totally fine to be bothered by.

      1. L-squared*

        But why is it ok for someone to be distracted by one and need to “get over” the other.

        Either something that possibly distracts others is a problem, or its not

        1. Kay*

          “Either something that possibly distracts others is a problem, or its not” – not really? Even ignoring all of Alison’s other points (OP is not their manager, if this is causing actual work problems they should raise it) – no.

          Some things cause a distraction and are unnecessary, like choosing to vape or having your six year old on your lap for every meeting. Those things should be avoided at work. But some things are necessary! Whether that’s “I don’t have childcare for my infant because our society decided not to invest in it” or yesterday’s “I have a scar that makes you uncomfortable”, there are always going to be distractions when you’re around other people. They’re not inherently bad.

        2. Corgis rock*

          Holding the baby may be the least distracting option, if the baby is left in a crib they may start crying which is going to distract the mother and possibly everyone else. She can feed and change the baby before the meeting to reduce the chance of crying but she can’t completely eliminate it. Whereas someone who smokes/vapes could do that right before the meeting starts and again as soon as it is over just like they would in the office. So that could contribute to why people view the two situations differently.

        3. CharlieBrown*

          I think you are underestimating what it takes to be a working parent these days.

          Is it unprofessional to vape on a video meeting? Yes.
          Is it unprofessional to have a baby on a video meeting? Yes.

          Can you just wait to vape until your meeting is over? Yes.
          Can you wait to take care of your dog until your meeting is over? Yes.
          Can you wait to take care of your cat until your meeting is over? Yes.

          Can you wait to take care of your baby until your meeting is over? No.

          That’s the crux of it right there. Given the current abysmal and shameful state of daycare in most places, daycare may not be an option for this parent. They are doing the best that they can under difficult circumstances.

          That is why there is a difference.

          You can wait on all the other things. But a baby cannot wait. Babies require a level of care that far exceeds everything else in your home that needs care.

          1. Empress Matilda*

            Seriously. The amount of judgement on this thread for LW1’s coworker is appalling. I’m sure she’s aware of the existence and purpose of cribs, and she probably even has one in her home!

            If she’s holding the baby during meetings, it’s almost certainly because it’s is the best option she has. I doubt she’s sitting there thinking “hey, I don’t NEED to hold the baby, but I’m going to do it anyway because it annoys my coworkers! Muahahahaha!!!”

            1. Avril Ludgateaux*

              There is an extremely vocal subset* of aggressively hostile, identity-rigid childfree people in every comment section on every public forum, and in so far as they define themselves by how much they abhor children, they will be sure to make known how inappropriate the existence of children is, ever.

              I get it, kids don’t belong in the workplace. Most of us agree with that. I am certain-beyond-certain that the mom in LW1’s scenario agrees with that! She’s doing the best she can with what she’s been given, though, and I can’t help but feel a tinge of underlying misogyny in the hate she is getting for being… as un-distracting as possible while managing a distraction, per LW1’s own assessment.

              I don’t know if these people even realize how much their attitudes harm women in the workplace – all women, not just mothers.

              *Please note I did say “subset” before people come for me with #notallchildfreefolks. I’m well aware. Most of my closest social circle is childfree – most likely myself, too.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                I worked with one of those people! One of our coworkers once asked me outside her earshot, “She knows not all of us aggressively hate kids, right? I feel like she wants me to agree with her and laugh at ‘crotch fruit’, but I’m not okay with her calling my nephew that.” (Fun fact: when Militantly Child-Free decided to have a child, she became one of those militant, entitled parents who expected everyone to accommodate her and everyone to love her child as much as she did.) I think some people just have no empathy for people who make different choices than they do, and the just happen to be really loud and aggressive about it.

          2. Avery*

            I agree with you in general, but some dogs and cats aren’t that easy to avoid taking care of in the moment, either!
            It varies, of course–I’ve got two dogs and three cats, and the dogs are fine unless there’s something to bark at (and that can be mostly prevented by sticking them in a room behind a closed door), and two of the three cats are non-issues, but one of the cats is fascinated by Zoom meetings AND will meow incessantly if I close the door on her, so I take the risk of her showing up on camera rather than the guarantee of her meowing nonstop throughout the meeting.

            1. Empress Matilda*

              I recently had a coworker flee from an online meeting because her dog was barfing on the rug. We all do what we need to do!

          3. Luna*

            Wait, what if your dog needs to go outside to poop and all during a meeting? Is this still something that would be answered with “yes” when asked “Can’t you wait to take care of that later?” Genuinely wondering.

          1. L-squared*

            If they are both considered distractions. I wouldn’t have called a vape pen a distraction myself. But here we are

            1. I should really pick a name*

              You seem laser-focused on the fact that these things are categorized as distractions.

              The distinction is that one can be handled outside of the meeting, the other can’t.

            2. aebhel*

              The vape pen doesn’t require immediate attention. The human infant does. Sometimes we weigh our assessment of these issues against other factors besides personal inconvenience.

            3. inko*

              …vaping is optional and attending to babies isn’t?

              I mean, I personally don’t mind people vaping on Zoom either. But the reason for the distraction does, in fact, matter. My boss once had to have a meeting lying flat on the floor because she’d thrown her back out and couldn’t sit at her desk. We all expressed sympathy and got on with it because clearly she couldn’t do anything differently. If she decided to take all meetings while horizontal just because she felt like it, we’d all still get on with things but it would be tougher to ignore. When someone contravenes perceived norms, understanding the reason helps you to ignore the part of your brain that sets off alarms when people act weird.

        4. Sylvan*

          No, there isn’t really a black-and-white rule here and I’m not sure why you’re looking for one.

        5. Jeebs*

          Because a baby is a person. A vape is an inanimate object that can be shut in a drawer or placed off-camera without any negative consequences.

          If your coworker had a medical device that made distracting noises, that would also be something that would in part be on you to learn to live with. Not everything distracting is in the same category, and a vape (recreational device) is not in the same category as a baby (living person too young to care for themselves).

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The difference is that with the current COVID situation, the coworker with the baby might not have any other options.

    2. Critical Rolls*

      The degree to which the behavior is perceived as elective, relative to how distracting it is, is a very big factor. I think there’s general consensus that nobody *needs* to vape during a meeting. A split occurs over the current letter because people who are familiar with kids can easily see how holding an infant could be the least distracting option, but people who are unfamiliar with kids may not see that. Vaping is highly elective and highly distracting; holding the infant is likely to be much less elective, and it may be much less distracting than having the child crying to be held.

    3. lilyp*

      I actually think the two questions were fundamentally different — “is it unprofessional to do X in a meeting” vs “my coworker is doing X in meetings and I find it distracting/annoying, what should I do about that (should I complain to their manager)” I do think, and I think most people here would actually agree, that having a baby in a meeting is unprofessional and should be avoided if possible. And I actually think most people would agree that while smoking/vaping may be unprofessional, it doesn’t rise to the level of something you should act on. So I don’t think the reaction is as contradictory as you’re seeing it.

  27. Cordelia*

    LW1 – “Let it go, and forge on if I have tough feedback, even while staring at cute chubby baby cheeks?” – yes absolutely, this is what you do. I don’t hear any signs that the mother’s productivity or performance is being impacted, but if you are so distracted that you are unable to have work-related conversations and give feedback, then that’s on you to improve. If the mother is unable to hear or respond to discussions or feedback, then that’s an issue that you can bring up with her manager. Focus on the problems that are being caused, rather than your feelings of discomfort.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      LW1, you’re not this person’s manager, so I’m not sure under what circumstances you would have to give her tough feedback. But if you do, could you schedule a separate meeting and ask her ahead of time if the meeting could be baby-free? She might be able to get someone to hold the baby for half an hour if she has a bit of notice.

  28. I should really pick a name*

    If you find it hard to give difficult feedback with the baby present, put post-it note over their face.
    The baby can’t understand the feedback.

    Does the coworker react normally to feedback from others?

    Is it common that you have difficult feedback for this coworker? If so, maybe the issue is that you’re annoyed by the coworker, and it’s expressing itself as annoyance with the baby.

  29. A Pound of Obscure*

    #3. That’s really impressive that the intern candidate asked for feedback and that you gave them really useful and kind advice. They’ll probably remember that for a long time as they start their career. Great job!

  30. ecnaseener*

    You know these raises LW2’s managers are so proud of probably didn’t even keep up with inflation -_-

  31. Jam Today*

    #5 — SEVEN WEEKS? That’s the part I can’t get over. One pay period and I would be at HR’s door. Since your HR is apparently non-existent, or at least non-functional, I’d be on the phone to my state Attorney General’s office. This has gone on way too long. Please know your worth and demand it.

    1. bicality*

      Especially when it’s bi-weekly pay. I didn’t get paid the first pay day at a job I was at because I started close to the end of the month and it was monthly pay on the final day of the month. I didn’t know it was monthly pay and reached out after two more weeks to ask when exactly I could expect to be paid, which is when they told me it was monthly and I’d missed the previous month’s cut-off, so those few days would be paid out in my next paycheck. Apparently I’d missed that in onboarding materials (because onboarding at that company was a “choose your own adventure” experience).

    2. NotAnotherManager!*


      The are legally required to pay you and to pay you in a timely manner. This isn’t being pushy about a perk, this is about not getting the bare minimum your employer owes you. PLEASE push them to fix this immediately and find a new place to work if they cannot reliably pay you on time.

  32. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

    #5 – it might not be a bad idea to contact your state board of labor now, in addition to following Alison’s advice. You’ve been almost 2 months (!) without a paycheck now, which is just bonkers. And you honestly don’t know if you’re the only one this is happening to. Maybe there are others in the same boat.

    A restaurant in my town recently got in trouble with the state (and ultimately closed down) because the staff were either not being paid at all, or were given paychecks that bounced. They all banded together to file a complaint. If you don’t want to escalate it to a complaint just yet, you could phrase it as an inquiry.

    And start looking for another job regardless, because that place sounds like a nightmare in general.

  33. Falling Diphthong*

    #5 Friends have cautioned me not to quit until I see paychecks appearing in my bank account.


    They have to pay you. If the payment is eventually shaken out of the system by your state’s labor board (or similar body) a month after you leave, the nonprofit doesn’t get to try for “If OP is not physically in the building today, can we even say that she ever existed?”

    1. EPLawyer*

      Given the terrible onboarding, my first thought was – was she even actually hired? Which would be HORRIBLE for OP.

      1. Salsa Verde*

        I thought this too! It’s not just that she wasn’t getting paid, it’s that her boss isn’t replying to her emails (at least the ones about pay!), she didn’t even get into the EMS for a month, she can’t submit hours – do they think she’s a volunteer? Do they think she’s an intern? It just doesn’t seem like they think she’s employed!!!

  34. Angstrom*

    #2: We are informed of raises during our annual reviews. I thank my manager then.

    I have sent a thank-you email to our division head when he’s convinced corporate to give bonuses in an off year.

  35. ABCYaBYE*

    OP5 – A few years ago, a baseball player initiated Operation Shutdown. While the situation in his case was slightly different (he didn’t want to compete for a roster spot and decided he wouldn’t) I love the phrase, and I think you should initiate it in your work NOW. Do nothing else other than get yourself paid. Someone asks you to do something… you’re on Operation Shutdown. You have a more important task to accomplish with your time in the the office. They aren’t paying you for your work, so why work for them. Work for yourself. Don’t quit. Still actively show up. Keep building up the hours for which they owe you. But don’t engage in any work-related functions other than getting yourself paid. Go sit in your manager’s office. Go sit in HR’s office. Payroll person? Sit in their office. For as long as you need to, while the clock is running and they’re paying you for that time. Ensure they acknowledge you, and let them know that they’re breaking the law by not paying you for the work you’ve done over the last 7+ weeks. Get a check. Then if you want to walk out with cash in hand, I wouldn’t blame you. But I wouldn’t walk out before doing so. They’re still legally obligated to pay you, but in this case, I’d be in full support of them continuing to pay you until the minute you get that check rather than you walking out and trying to claw back what you’re owed… Operation Shutdown.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      While your suggestion is perhaps a bit extreme, the LW sounded way too passive.

      “When I emailed my supervisor about this two weeks into the job, she didn’t reply.”

      Email again with high priority flag and Urgent in the subject line. Email every HR / payroll contact with high priority flag and Urgent in the subject line. Call boss, payroll, HR if you’re remote and go sit in their office and talk to them if you’re in person. Don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked by them saying they’re going to work on it, look into it, etc. They must deal with it now. They must hand you check now as you’re overdue for at least 5 week of pay, maybe more. If your boss doesn’t do anything, go to boss’s boss and next step up for HR and payroll. Do not stop until someone hands you a check and gets you logged into the employee management system and your hours are recorded.

      The LW indeed has something more important than job tasks this morning and until it is resolved – getting back pay. Your management is bad and neglectfully unconcerned, but the LW needed to make a much bigger deal out of it much earlier and not let not getting paid just drop.

      1. ABCYaBYE*

        I admit it was extreme, but as you said, the LW did sound far too passive. I would have (proverbially) burned the building down by now.

        My only thought with Operation Shutdown (other than the chuckle it gave me thinking back to the baseball player) was that the LW is more likely to be paid in a more timely fashion if they’re actually in the office versus quitting and going through a formal complaint process. So go in, continue to build hours for which they owe you money, and then only work on getting a check put into your hand.

  36. whatchamacallit*

    LW #1 – the COVID vaccine is approved for 6 months and older, so if her baby is about 6 months old, they might JUST be old enough to get vaccinated and not yet have the full series of shots. So that may also be an issue for child care, if there are day care slots she may not want to enroll her child before they’re fully vaccinated. (and flu season is really terrible this year, plus RSV is spiking – there might be a few health things she’s concerned about.)

    I realize this doesn’t give a solution, but it may just be helpful for you to keep in mind on days it’s really bugging you, I also would find it very hard to give honest feedback to someone holding their cute baby!

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      The biggest issues with childcare in my area are that (1) there are not enough spots – you have to put your kid on as soon as you get a second line on the test, and you may not get to the top of it by the time you give birth and (2) likely related to scarcity the spots are outrageously expensive. When we had a toddler and infant in childcare, it cost more than our mortgage, and it was a reasonably priced option, not a private nanny or fancy center.

      Your kid can be up on all their shots and still be on childcare wait list hell. And choosing where to leave your kid each workday is not a small decision. We got extraordinarily lucky in finding out fabulous provider on the first try, but I know other people who went through multiple providers before finding a good fit, and you are not going to leave your baby with someone you don’t trust. Including one whose nanny quit on the second week because she “didn’t like the baby”.

  37. Nea*

    LW 5:

    1) Emails are not enough. They’re merely the prologue to showing up in Payroll’s office. The best way to get things done is to be polite, be professional – AND BE IN PERSON.

    2) – If you search this site for the word “britches” or “not respectful enough” you’ll find the perfect script to say once you’re there:
    After that, she looked at me and the payroll manager and said, “I appreciate your apology, but I need you both to understand that this can’t happen again. This has put me under financial strain and I can’t continue to work for COMPANY if this isn’t corrected today.”

    1. Avril Ludgateaux*

      I remember that letter! And the gall of the writer to think that it was the unpaid employee who was out of line!

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Thank you! I was looking for that quote, but you beat me to it. It’s perfect. Polite but direct and clear about what needs to happen going forward. (The manager who wrote in was a piece of work, but the employee got it right.)

  38. bicality*

    LW2 – I totally missed the signals that my boss was expecting a thank you in my last job for a merit raise. We were all given a flat 2% increase, and then each unit was given a certain dollar amount that the supervisor could hand out to their employee. Such as it was, I managed all of the employees except my boss and one other direct report that was lateral to me. I had asked him, multiple times, what the protocol would be for divvying up the discretionary raise, to which he ghosted me (literally left me on read on Teams).

    When he finally sat me down to tell me he was splitting the discretionary raise between me and the employee parallel to me, and not for the employees I supervised, it did not even occur to me to say thank you because I was so livid that he didn’t think to consult me (especially because he told me he talked it over with my co-worker, who…didn’t manage anyone? But just happened to be closer to him in age and in the office physically more than me). His reasoning was that he saw me and the other coworker responding to emails after hours, which meant that we were working more than the other (non-exempt, btw) employees.

    I realized I missed the cue to be effusive when he kept saying, “This will bring you over $X. This is a X% increase, that’s pretty good for [org].” My response was something like, “That’s fine, but I’m far more concerned about X, Y, and Z getting an increase.”

    And now I’m mad all over again and I don’t even work there anymore!

  39. HannahS*

    OP1, there was a stretch where I had my infant in virtual weekly rounds with my clinic group. She had just started daycare and stayed home sick for a few days of every week for the first six weeks. My options were as follows: have the baby sit on my lap, put her on the floor outside the glass door of the office and watch her scream and cry, or put her in her crib and listen to her scream and cry, end of list. My partner had just started a new job and had no flexibility, I had no family available to watch her, the daycare wouldn’t take her because she was sick, and no other childcare was available for a child with covid symptoms.

    I muted myself when I wasn’t talking and went off-camera when my daughter started wiggling. My supervisor was a father (who’d had to bring his sick infant and preschooler to rounds, too) and I’d texted him in advance to explain. I did also explain to my colleagues (whether or not they fully “got” it, I don’t know) but it seems like coworker hasn’t done that for you. That’s fair, since you’re not her manager.

    It’s distracting for you, but this won’t last forever. If you need to give her feedback, give her feedback. Practically speaking, switch to speaker view or hide her screen if you can, which may help you focus.

  40. Gnome*

    Lw1. The waving is what’s hitting me. Now, I can’t tell if this is a baby holding onto a finger and the parent is kinda waving it around (this was A Thing for my kids and kept them happy on my lap) or more a parent making the kids arm wave at people repeatedly. The first would be easy to ignore and the second would drive me batty. I can ignore semi-constant small movement but waving in bursts would distract me. The simple solution is then: “Would you mind turning your camera off? I know you probably need to wave Junior’s arm to keep him happy while we talk, but the motion is very distracting for me and I find that I am forgetting things.” Or something like that.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      Yeah, but if you are finding it distracting, then it’s kind of on you to learn to deal with it, isn’t it?

      This is a baby. This isn’t like someone tapping their toes or popping their knuckles or chewing gum loudly.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Or Mom could learn not to do that?

        And why isn’t it like cracking knuckles or popping gum? It’s still a thing that is entirely unnecessary and irrelevant to the situation, that Mom seems to be doing for attention. At least cracking your knuckles makes your hands feel better.

        1. Eyes Kiwami*

          Really weird to jump to “Mom wants attention” when it’s more likely that it’s helping keep the baby quiet

      2. Gnome*

        Not really. We are being accommodating because COVID and childcare are issues, but there is also a need to balance that with making it smooth for people. There’s no reason for everyone to need to see baby wave at them and this isn’t a big ask. No different than if someone had, say, home repair guys walking around in the background. It should be said kindly and probably warmly, but it’s a totally reasonable ask.

  41. Blarg*

    Granted, I work at a non-profit where we are now all perm remote if we want to be and our work focuses broadly on infants and children but … we have a lot of babies at virtual meetings. I find it delightful. Parents shut off their camera if things are chaotic for them, baby starts fussing, etc. While there are things about my current org that are very frustrating, I love that we are accepting of the fact that our colleagues are human people with lives and children and pets. People get their work done, and I don’t care when/if they had a kid on their lap while they did it.

    And I’m a very happily childless woman in my 40s.

    1. Lydia*

      I’m with you. The presence of a baby with the intermittent moving around you need to do is not a big deal. If it were a squirming, fussy baby, that would be distracting and at that point mom would need to make a decision to either mute and turn off the camera, or maybe dip out of the meeting. If mom is being stopping in the middle of a sentence to baby talk to her kid frequently, that would also be distracting, but overall, not a big deal.

  42. Matt*

    LW1: To expand on the childcare crisis, it is also much worse for young kids. Many places don’t accept kids under two, and finding one for under six months can be extremely difficult. This kid probably wasn’t eligible for the start of this school year, and the elder kids haven’t aged out to school which makes turnover in day cares lower. If they’re still on the lap come next summer when they’re babbling and hitting the keyboard, then there’s probably something else going on. Until then, if it doesn’t result in an increased workload for you in any way, I’d ignore it.

  43. Michelle Smith*

    OP 1, respectfully I think you should leave it alone. If you find it difficult to focus during the meetings because you’re seeing a cute baby (easily the best part of any virtual meeting in my personal opinion), use the settings in Zoom/your company’s platform of choice to have the view default to the person speaking instead of a gallery view with everyone’s camera at the same time. Then she can do what she needs to do, everyone who wants to see the baby gets to see the baby, and you can focus on the meeting and your own business.

    Whether it is acceptable for her to have the baby at every meeting is between her and her manager. Not your business IMO.

  44. 1-800-BrownCow*

    LW #1: Since you are not her manager, I would be cautious about raising this with her manager. You don’t know if she has already made an arrangement with her manager and has been given the okay to have her baby in the meetings because of her circumstances. While I agree that having the baby wave during meetings is a bit of a distraction, I’d just let it go.

    1. Marna Nightingale*

      Honestly, we don’t even know whether the baby waves are a result of co-worker’s manager and others waving or smiling at the baby!

      I have genuinely had my spouse come get the dog off of my feet because someone on their daily video meeting (during the chit-chat part) complained vociferously that “not everybody seemed to be in attendance today, [spouse name] where’s your admin?”

      The baby and the waves can still be a distraction for OP! I get it, we all have our stuff. It’s valid.

      But some distractions are best dealt with by asking other people to fix it, and some are best dealt with by repeating silently to yourself as many times as necessary “at least I don’t have a coworker who lives next door to a firehall or on a flight path” and this is pretty much a type 2.

  45. The one who wears too much black*

    Regarding LW1, the commentariat is probably going to hate this, so I am prepared for the vitriol, but I am just not bothered by a baby existing in their own home. Having children around my work calls has become normal, and I try not to bristle at someone else’s normal these days because the benefits of work from home are so high for so many people, myself included. I believe this is just another small way – having one’s baby around for work – that we have seen a professional culture shift, and I wanted to add my support for that culture shift if it is indeed happening like I think it is.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      I think the one thing this letter has done is to make it clear which members of the commentariat have actually met babies and understand how hard it is to actually take good care of them, and which think a baby is something that you can just dump in a box and shove into a closet when you need to work, take a nap, eat dinner, whatever.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I mean, I can’t even control my dogs, I’m not sure how people think you can tell a toddler to go amuse themselves from 9:00 – 5:00 and that it just…happens?

        1. Lydia*

          Honestly, a six-month-old baby is much easier to deal with in this way than a toddler. Toddlers want to move and run around and aren’t interested in sitting still on your lap for an extended period of time that isn’t devoted to them. An infant might grab at things, but they’re pretty good with just being with mom or dad and observing what’s going on.

      2. H3llifIknow*

        I think that’s being a little unfair to those of us who are/were working Moms and … made it work w/o having our children in our laps while “working”. If my coworkers did that, I, frankly, would wonder how much work they’re actually able to do in those circumstances! How are you doing your job if there’s a baby IN YOUR LAP while you’re on the computer trying to type, read, run figures, whatever? Nobody is suggesting “dumping the baby in a closet” or whatever, but those of us who paid, quite handsomly, for childcare so that we could do our jobs fully, are permitted to question whether a parent who chooses to assume it’s okay to do both at the same time, is really pulling her weight.

        1. The one who wears too much black*

          It sounds like coordinating childcare while working was difficult for you, both from a financial and emotional perspective, and I am so sorry for that. No one deserves the struggle of finding affordable childcare. However, I must respectfully disagree with your reasoning here because I do not believe just because you struggled means that others should share that struggle exactly as you experienced it.

        2. Jennifer Strange*

          We don’t know that this parent is choosing to do both (nor how “handsomely” she’s paid for that matter). Also, I believe CharlieBrown is very specifically talking about the chorus of “Just leave them in a crib!” occurring in this thread.

          1. H3llifIknow*

            I have no idea how much she’s paid. I said I paid “handsomely” for childcare. To the tune of over $15K a year.

            And to the previous commenter: I did not “struggle” with work OR financially. I did what I needed to do and what I believe was the right thing. I worked at and was paid to do a job, so I paid someone to provide childcare, so that I could give my focus to the job that was PAYING ME. I don’t view that as having “struggled” but rather as being fair and decent to my co-workers and expecting them to accomodate me because I didn’t want to leave my children so they have to put up with them.

            1. Becca*

              I’m glad for you that you were able to find a childcare spot (sounds like daycare if it was only 15k a year). There is a real and ongoing childcare emergency right now. Daycares closed in the pandemic and have not reopened. The ones that have tried to reopen have not been able to hire enough staff to legally open.

              I have a daycare slot because I had clinical anxiety that came out when I was pregnant centered around finding quality childcare for my baby and forced us to spend $1500 just on waitlist fees to get on the waitlists for over a dozen daycares, some of which would have been a 40 minute “commute” each way. We got on the lists over a year ahead of when my baby actually needed to start daycare.

              We ended up with one, single daycare slot available in time for when my baby needed to start at 6 months old. I pay $33,000 per year, which is the most affordable rate I’ve heard among my parent friends with infants in daycare in my city.

              My friends who had the gall to wait until they were 6 months pregnant instead of 6 weeks did not get slots in time. My friends who “only” got on 5 lists (to the tune of $500-750) instead of 12 did not get spots in time. My friends who pay much more to go the nanny route are experiencing the childcare shortage as well, because there is so much “nanny poaching” going on right now – there is always someone willing to pay your nanny more if they come work for them (like $35-45/hour compared to the $20-25 that was standard in my city pre-pandemic), so obviously even the best, most caring and reasonable nannies have to do that for their own well-being.

              One friend of mine cried to me a few days ago because she thought she had made the right decision to go the nanny route to ensure she had quality care, but she can’t find a reliable nanny who doesn’t no-show in her $25-30 budget range and now daycare just is not an option because lists for under 2 rooms are 18-24 months long. It’s awful.

              Anyway, I’m glad you were able to have reliable childcare for 15k per year and that was considered “handsomely” paying. It’s no longer the reality. Like so many other things, the pandemic truly and completely obliterated it.

              1. Becca*

                (And to be clear, no one recommended I get on that many lists when I was pregnant – daycares told us to get on 2-3 lists and to get on lists 3-4 months in advance of when we needed it. This was at the tail end of daycares not having enough babies because no one was sending their kids back to daycare yet. Then everyone needed to start sending their kids back to daycare at the same time and lists exploded right after we got onto all of them. No one was doing anything wrong by not doing what I did, and what I did was truly, deeply irrational. It just was very luckily irrational in the right direction.)

          2. H3llifIknow*

            I saw no “leave them in the crib” comments, and certainly wouldn’t agree if I did. BUT, if the mother insists on keeping the child at home, there are options that are safe but out of the view of co-workers. A nearby playpen with soft, educational, fun toys for example. The on the lap “waving hi” to the coworkers is just too…. precious IMHO. Doesn’t belong on a work meeting. Period.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              You’re correct, I misread your comment about pay. BUT you still seem to missing the point that getting a child into daycare isn’t just a matter of money but also about finding centers that have openings.

              BUT, if the mother insists on keeping the child at home, there are options that are safe but out of the view of co-workers. A nearby playpen with soft, educational, fun toys for example. The on the lap “waving hi” to the coworkers is just too…. precious IMHO. Doesn’t belong on a work meeting. Period.

              I put my daughter down while she’s awake and she screams. What is more distracting: a child in my lap moving or a child off-screen screaming? We don’t know this woman’s situation, and if the manager has no issues (and the LW can’t think of any issues beyond “feedback” then it’s none of the LW’s business. Period.

        3. Aimless and Abstract*

          No matter how “handsomely” you are willing to pay, child care for babies is just impossible to find these days. Count your blessings that it was available for you when you needed it. And please try to find compassion for others who don’t have the access you did.

        4. YetAnotherAnalyst*

          I don’t know how long ago you were a working mom, but as someone who worked through her kid’s infancy nearly twenty years ago now – the childcare situation is MUCH worse now than it was then. Childcare has been an underpaid career with a shortage of qualified workers for a long time now, and the pandemic/”great resignation” has really amplified that shortage. Daycares may not be willing to take infants too yound to get the covid vaccine. Covid losses have broken extended-family support systems. Inflation has really cut into how much families can afford to pay when paid care is available.

          In circumstances like these, parents do what parents have done for millenia, and simply work with the baby – work gets done, baby gets parental contact, all is well. There’s no indication in this letter that this mother is slacking with either her work responsilities or her parenting.

          If you really are concerned that parents can’t attend to work and an infant at the same time, the way to address it is to push for better parental leave, better sick leave, and subsidized childcare. When no parent *needs* to have their infant in a video call, you can start reasonably expecting parents to not have their infants on video calls.

        5. Ellis Bell*

          But are the curious people wondering about her job performance her manager? Are they people whose work is being impacted? Or are they just judgy busybodies? I’m serious. It’s perfectly fine for a manager to enquire about childcare arrangements and to look into their overall work performance (of course!), but for other people to just go “Eek! A baby!” when it’s sitting there quietly is nonsensical. I’m also totally with you on the scandalous cost of childcare, but presumably we can still refer to those childcare availability days as better ones? I’d far rather pay for workable solutions than watch my promotion opportunities circle a drain while I’m on a waiting list.

        6. JustSewYouKnow*

          You’ve hit a bit of a nerve for me, and if you are permitted to question, permit me to answer! Did you “make it work” with a baby (a BABY baby, not a toddler/child/tween/teen, etc.) during a pandemic? Perhaps I would have agreed with you for my first baby, born 2016. My second/last was born in early 2020. And you are right: working with a baby in your lap is not great! I HATED IT. Comparing “making it work” even three or four years ago to now is what is unfair. A couple more reasons this comment has hit my nerves: We, too, paid “quite handsomely” daycare–daycare we *couldn’t use* for March – August 2020 when they were closed because a) that was the way to hold the place for kid #1; b) we were lucky to not lose our jobs/daycare budget unlike a lot of other people; and c) we wanted the daycare to not go out of business! (Like the one we had enrolled that 2020 baby in…and why that kid was in my lap for the hardest year of my life) Secondly, I also questioned whether I was pulling my weight. A lot. I thought I was failing at everything all the time. Apparently I wasn’t: I got a promotion after joining every meeting with a baby in my lap (did you know they do better in laps for meetings than they do in laps for Spreadsheet Time/deep work, etc.?).

        7. NotAnotherManager!*

          There is an incredible shortage of childcare to pay handsomely for where I live. In some instances, unless you can basically pay for a private nanny or find a nanny share (which I’d estimate would be $25-50K/year, all in), you’re on a wait list until your child is nearly ready for preschool, and that’s assuming you put them on as soon as your pregnancy was confirmed. Childcare was competitive pre-pandemic, and it’s only gotten worse.

          I would also reconsider your negative assumptions about people whose childcare situations you don’t really know anything about “not pulling their weight”. If someone is *actually* not pulling their weight and it impacts your work, please address it with your supervisor, in terms of business impact, not your personal beliefs. Making assumptions and judgments about parents, especially women, is tired and problematic.

        8. Just Me*

          Yeah I don’t love the presumption that everyone who is understanding of OP’s position is automatically anti-child, doesn’t know anything about children, couldn’t possibly be a parent themselves.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Who said that? The only people I’ve seen that said about are folks who think there’s no possible reason the woman can’t just put the child in a crib instead of holding them or that the 6 month old should just be trained to be quiet during meetings.

    2. Sylvan*


      You’re going to see people do normal everyday things like hold their baby sometimes when they WFH.

      I don’t have or want kids but I appreciate it when a company understands that life happens.

    3. Pigeon*

      Thank you! I for one agree. I think adjusting to the new normal has the potential to benefit everyone, not just parents.

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “Existing in their own home” is really the key here. I think WFH has really blurred the lines between what an office is, and we have to be understanding that if someone is in their own home sometimes home things bleed through.

      I keep saying this but it’s how I’ve gotten through COVID – we have to remember that we’re all just doing our best.

      1. Olive*

        I wonder if the reverse of this is part of the LW’s issue. She feels like her own home is being intruded on in an annoying way.

        In almost every office I’ve been in, there have been plenty of small (and sometimes not small) annoyances and distractions from coworkers. But because it’s a shared office space where every worker has a right to be there, as long as the annoyances aren’t deliberate and flagrant, it’s generally accepted that they’re part of office life.

        Zoom meetings can already feel like an intrusion on “my” space – like these people are now in my home! Unless they’re all in hours of video meetings every day, which is an issue apart from the coworker’s baby, I’d encourage her to reframe this as getting all the office annoyances in a condensed but time-limited package.

    5. Avril Ludgateaux*

      I think most of the commentariat here, including those who happen to be childfree, are generally reasonable, 8 out of 10 times. There are certain individuals who are more vocal about their consternation on this specific topic, and unfortunately they can dominate the conversation and make it feel like there is a harsher bend in the majority opinion, while those who would shrug and carry on do just that (on the assumption there’s no need to express the default, i.e. that they’re unbothered).

      I’m with you, even as somebody without kids who likely will never have kids of my own. I’d probably feel differently if the kid were screaming or babbling and the mother forgot to mute herself, or if she changed a diaper in full view of the camera, or, like, if she were putting her kid up and talking through them for the whole meeting, or any number of hypotheticals. And, of course, if the baby were inhibiting the mother’s work in such a way that it interfered with my ability to get my job done, that would be a problem.

      But nothing suggests any of this is happening, and in so far as that remains the case, it’s on me to manage my own attention.

  46. That One Person*

    LW1 – Look if that baby can’t handle criticism now it’s never going to make it in this world /joke

    More seriously I’d give it anyways. My understanding here is that it’s critiques and pointing out room for improvement/mistakes. There shouldn’t be yelling and guessing these aren’t grievous mistakes that could be extra embarrassing in a group environment to go over. If I get the chance to work from home and my cat demands to be held I’d still accept criticism with her curled up in my arms – if anything it’d be more reassuring that way as at least I have kitty cuddles.

    LW 2 – That seems so weirdly formal to expect a thank you note and I tend to associate those with interviews – formal and informal. I’ve definitely said thank you in the past when increases were mentioned at either job since I was generally happy for the uptick in pay, but never inspired enough to send a note or card over it. This sounds more like bosses getting together to generally gripe about things and forgetting to shut the door when doing so – or going out to lunch together to completely avoid being overheard.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      See, my cats often “joined” online meetings but I didn’t have them waving at everyone. They just . . . sat quietly in my lap. As could be done with the baby.

        1. Blarg*

          OK but the cutest thing ever is my colleague’s one year old, who gets VERY VERY excited when she sees my cat on the screen. This could be distracting. This could also be the best part of my day. Have we had 1:1 calls mostly about work but partially just to watch his baby point and laugh at the cat? Yes. Have I attempted to screen shot these interactions? Also, yes — but I am making a ridiculous face every single time.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        So, like babies, cats come in all varieties, and my coworkers have the cat who realizes that the computer is clearly distracting from petting ME and must sit on the keyboard, cat who thinks the monitor-mounted camera is a toy, cat who licks its butt in the background of every meeting, and cat who knocks everything on the coworkers’ desk into the floor.

        Love cats, have cats, cats can be distracting as hell.

        1. Luna*

          I’d chuckle if I noticed the cat in my coworker’s background is cleaning itself while visible on camera. But I consider that so ‘normal’ it would be a quick notice and then leave. A baby? Eh, not so much. But that might be because I have no kids and my exposure to babies has been minimal.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            I mean as you point out everyone has a different idea of what’s “normal”. To me a cat cleaning itself in the background would be way more distracting than a baby being on their parent’s lap. Why do we treat one like a funny little quirk and the other like a huge inconvenience?

            1. That One Person*

              I think a large/likely part is just personal preference. However any extra movement is going to be distracting – people in new hire orientations get distracted if someone walks behind the IT person giving it, and that’s bound to happen in an office from time-to-time. Neither pet nor baby should be treated as a shield though against any corrective notes/suggestions for improvement. Just view them as a lamp or piece of office supplies equivalent in the moment.

      2. Jeebs*

        A human infant is not the same thing as an adult cat. No, most of them are not content to just calmly sit there with zero interaction. (I’m told I was that kind of baby, but I’ve never met one myself – most babies I’ve met need to be jiggled or bounced or, yes, to have their hands waved, if they’re going to sit and be quiet while adults talk.)

  47. Clobberin’ Time*

    LW #5, starting right now, your ONLY job duty is to get that paycheck issued TODAY. Show up in people’s offices, call them, email, whatever needs to be done, but you need to make it crystal clear that this must be remedied Right Now. Not after they get you in the system, not tomorrow when so and so is back in the office: TODAY.

    If your manager took your phone from your backpack or purse, would you wait weeks and weeks to insist she give it back?

    One reason employers do this is they don’t have money to pay everyone. You don’t want to be the nice polite person who patiently waits on a paycheck, only to find out the company went out of business or bankrupt.

  48. Fives*

    #2 – My manager 15 years ago heavily urged the four of us in their dept to send a thank you note to our great-grandboss for our annual merit raises. She was very parental to us, most of whom were roughly her age or about 15 years younger. That was the least of the problems under that manager.

  49. H*

    If you aren’t getting paid, you need to quit. That is ridiculous. So is the scenario about thank you notes for raises…was it even a COL adjustment? Do you even get those annually? Why can’t bosses read the room?

    1. rinathin*

      “Thank you so very much for doing the bare minimum to make sure my income doesn’t effectively go down over time.”

  50. KatEnigma*

    Wouldn’t the easiest solution to #1 just be for the co-worker’s manager to ask her to keep her camera off? I agree with the few who say that having the baby wave at people is a bit much. Yes, she may not have daycare and I know that having the baby on her lap may be the only way to keep it quiet. But the co-worker isn’t trying to be discreet or professional about it when she’s using it as a puppet to wave at people. So if LW and others are just looking at her headshot (and she keeps it on mute when not speaking, like EVERYONE should), no one will be distracted by the baby.

    If the coworker is distracted and that’s causing problems, then address that- but don’t mention the baby as the problem. The problem is her distraction and she’d need to figure that out.

        1. Empress Matilda*

          That’s a pretty extreme interpretation of what LW1 said. “Using her baby’s hands to wave at people” probably just means she’s lifting the baby’s hand and waving it herself for a second or two – I don’t imagine there’s a full-fledged song and dance number going on here.

        2. Sylvan*

          No, I think that’s a reach.

          My boss works from home sometimes to care for his child, who is disabled and can’t just be dropped off with any childcare provider. Sometimes he encourages his kid to say “hi” or wave, which takes like two seconds. Can’t imagine getting worked up over it or asking not to see the child.

        3. HannahS*

          You may not be aware of this, and I hope it doesn’t come off as nitpicking grammar, but a baby is a human, and in the same way that you wouldn’t refer to someone’s partner as “it” if they were visible on screen, referring to a baby as “it” and “being used as a puppet” communicates a heck of a lot of contempt for another person.

          1. Jeebs*

            You may not be aware of this, but there are English dialects where referring to babies and very young children as ‘it’ is very common and does not communicate contempt at all. That may be the connotation in your own dialect, but online, you are going to run into people who don’t share it.

  51. Environmental Compliance*

    You know, I would be pretty distracted by random baby in lap, especially if parent is constantly interacting & making them wave, faces, what have you. Same for constant cat/dog intrusions. (It’s the random movements for me – I was also very distracted by a coworker that was sitting on a clearly tropical beach – which is not where we are actually located, we’re in the Midwest – and there were birds causing a ruckus in a tree in the background.) I absolutely get that it can be very distracting when something is New, Different, Feels Weird. However, you need to manage you. Unless their work is getting impacted – they were the designated minutes person, and now no one is taking minutes – you need to manage your own response.

    I’d just turn off incoming video and solve it that way. Easy toggle for me, and it affects no one but me. I will admit to doing this on a somewhat regular basis, both from bandwidth issues and from Person With Weird Stuff On Camera Who Is Distracting Me.

    (Except the guy who had a fake alligator in his window. His whole background was a search and find and I could not look away.)

  52. Sylvan*

    LW1: Her manager is in most of the meetings and (obviously?) doesn’t have a problem with it, since this has been going on for a number of weeks.

    I think this is essentially the answer to your question. Your manager’s cool with it, so it’s okay. It doesn’t sound like it’s imposing on you in any way.

    LW5: Quit.

  53. Emily*

    Re LW1: If I said to a peer’s manager (who is not my manager) that their report seemed distracted on meetings — meetings that the manager is on, so they can make their own observations – that would be out-of-step with professional norms everywhere I’ve worked. It’s a negative judgement not just on the peer, but you’re also implicitly criticizing the manager. If this were affecting my work, I’d bring it up with my manager, since they are ultimately the one whose job it is to handle issues with my work

    Directly asking a peer to change something that their manager is clearly aware of would also be weird. If I were the peer in that situation, I would pass it along to my manager (“heads up/is this an issue for you?”) and then feel comfortable ignoring that feedback unless they told me otherwise.

    1. KatEnigma*

      The manager may be there, but the manager is assuming no one else is impacted by it. Managers aren’t always right and a good manager would address it, once told that it’s a problem for others.

      1. Emily*

        If you’re impacted by it, you can talk to your manager, who will decide how to handle it. Not someone who is more senior than you, does not manage you, and who you are implicitly criticizing. There’s some delicateness to this situation, and this is something I would want my manager to be involved with to give me cover on.

    2. Cordelia*

      Yes, and also there isn’t actually anything in the letter to suggest that the mother is distracted, so nothing to report to their manager anyway. Perhaps someone needs to report to the LW’s manager that LW is so distracted by their discomfort at the concept of a baby on a video call that they are unable to communicate effectively or provide the “tough feedback” that apparently their role requires.

  54. Non-profiteer*

    LW1: If it helps to think of other reasons why this baby is still at home with the working mom, they also might be delaying daycare because RSV and flu are RAGING right now, and covid is not likely far behind. If I was in a position where I had a young baby and could delay daycare till the spring, I would.

    For non-parents out there, FYI the age of the baby really does matter. Even if you delay a couple months, put the kid in daycare, and they immediately get a serious illness – the older the baby is, the more likely they will survive and easier it is to deal with it. For babies under 3 months (which I know this baby is not), any fever is an automatic ER visit. I don’t fault any parents for doing anything they can to prevent illness in the early days. And I agree with Allison’s advice as always.

  55. SMH*

    I would follow the advice to go physically in person to each person’s office starting with your boss, then to HR then to payroll and state I need to be paid today no exceptions. Then call each of them and ask what time will your paycheck be ready? No matter what is said or promised I would then send an email to all three and their bosses stating ‘This situation is unacceptable and is in violation of the law. I need my paycheck today plus penalties. If this does not happen I will be going to the Labor Board, filing unemployment, and going public with that fact that employees are not paid.’ Penalties should be at least $100 for each late paycheck owed. Make sure you have copies of the offer letter and any time sheets turned in and any other proof you can think of that you worked for the company stored off site.

    They do not want to get a reputation of not paying employees. Did anyone else start at the same time as you? Can you confirm with them if they are being paid? I would add Glass Door review after you go to warn others.

  56. NaoNao*

    I think what people might not be articulating is that when the coworker has the baby “wave” at the assembled masses + when the baby is there, natural instinct is to mentally consider that person…well, a person! And it feels odd and just distracting enough that an additional human face is visible that you aren’t acknowledging or interacting with and must pretty much ignore.
    So just as you wouldn’t give tough feedback or course corrections or bad news to Coworker/Junior A with another person in the room, you’d feel weird even if it’s illogical, to have those conversations with Baby Person in the room.
    To me when I really think through what the objection is (other than a feeling of “why does this person “get” to bend the no childcare overlapping with work” rules) that’s where I land. It’s not distracting because it’s crying or fussing or whatever, it’s because it’s an *entire other human* on the call in her lap!

    1. I should really pick a name*

      But there are also other humans on the call. Admittedly not on her lap, but they would still be giving tough feedback with other people there.

      1. NaoNao*

        True, I should have included “another human that the coworker is responsible for an engaged with”

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      Sure, but the discomfort the LW is ultimately for them to deal with. If there are no actual distractions (and the mother’s manager has no issue with it) then the LW needs to manage their own feelings on the matter. Others have given great suggestions on how to do that.

    3. Jeebs*

      Yeah. That’s the reality of babies. They are a person! It’s normal to feel weird.

      The solution is for you, as an adult person, to deal with that feeling.

  57. Meep*

    #2 – My former manager complained to a coworker that I wasn’t grateful enough to her for a $6k raise after 3.5 years. Turned out, it was supposed to be $12k like a couple of other coworkers. She just shifted that extra $6k into her own paycheck and then informed me that I should be getting less but she wanted to show how much I was appreciated. -insert eye roll- The most ridiculous thing was I was doing her job and she was claiming credit for my work.

    It was only discovered when I talked to her boss and he was SHOCKED to hear I wasn’t making more because he had authorized that $12k pay bump 3 months before it happened. He ended up making it up to me in backpay, but I will never be grateful for a raise again.

  58. Jack Bruce*

    OP 1: I get being distracted by a baby on camera and probably would be irritated by it. Most likely due to my sensory issues and problems with following video calls and auditory processing. Like having another thing to pay attention to is splitting my focus even more, and it wears me down. Along with that, there’s often a feeling of obligation as an afab person that we’re supposed to always be enthusiastic and excited to see babies, which for me, isn’t the case (they’re fine, I’m neutral on them). So I relate to OP 1, cause it is tiring, feeling that pressure to be OH BABIES YAY when you’re just trying to keep yourself together to get through the day. Maybe at that meeting, I’m exhausted just dealing with people and now I’m supposed to be even more energetic or people will think I hate the baby and therefore am a bad person. Seeing the vitriol here from other commenters shows how pervasive this is, as if OP hates babies or mothers or has no experience with them. But it’s ok to not want to have that distraction during work, and doesn’t mean the person not wanting distractions doesn’t understand how bad things are for parents in the US right now. It’s not a value judgment on specific commenters, their children, or mothers, or women in general. The OP is stating a preference and asking for help.

    That said, if the mother’s manager is not bothered by it, and the baby isn’t really disruptive to the meeting, you’ve got to find a way to reduce the impact to yourself. Turning off/hiding their video feed or turning off incoming video completely may be the best best- you control that and it doesn’t impact anyone else’s seeing coworker or the baby. I almost always turn off incoming video for meetings, cause it helps me focus on what people are saying. So see what you can do to make the meetings better for yourself, since it doesn’t seem the baby is very disruptive overall. And you have my sympathy as a person who has to regulate sensory input all day to stay balanced.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      I don’t see any vitriol on here? I see folks explaining that, no, the mother can’t just put the baby in a crib or playpen for the meeting if the baby is going to cry the whole time, and I also see people (understandably) bothered by folks insisting that the mother must have other options. Also, you may think people are expecting you to be energetic if there’s a baby there, but I can pretty much guarantee you no one is thinking that.

      But it’s ok to not want to have that distraction during work, and doesn’t mean the person not wanting distractions doesn’t understand how bad things are for parents in the US right now.

      Absolutely! No one is saying the LW is a bad person! But what people are trying to get across is that if the baby isn’t actually causing any issues (and the manager has no issue) the LW needs to take their own steps to minimize the distraction (and there are great suggestions above!)

      1. Avril Ludgateaux*

        The only vitriol I see here is thinly couched vitriol from people who are like “ew, baby,” tbh.

      2. Jessica Fletcher*

        You don’t see the comments as bad because you agree with them. But yes, it’s awful to assume LW1 or commenters hate babies or hate mothers. Coworkers are not out to get you when they are distracted by a mom teaching her baby to interact with a virtual meeting.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          But yes, it’s awful to assume LW1 or commenters hate babies or hate mothers.

          Literally no one has said that.

          It’s also awful to assume that this woman hasn’t thought about any other possible places to put the child or is just trying to save on childcare costs.

          Coworkers are not out to get you when they are distracted by a mom teaching her baby to interact with a virtual meeting.

          Co-workers also are not out to get you when they need to keep their baby on their lap for a meeting because we live in a society that both insists that women become mothers but then doesn’t value them enough to help provide reasonable and accessible childcare.

        2. Jack Bruce*

          Yeah, a lot of these are heated and pretty personal and “you clearly don’t know anything about babies” is rife in the nested comments. I get why people are het up, but the tone of some comments here today is on the attack. Time to walk away from the site for a bit!

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            I mean this gently, but if you think that every infant will be absolutely* happy being put down somewhere away from a parent while the parent has a meeting (and that the parent in question couldn’t possibly have already considered this) then you probably don’t know anything about babies. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There are things I don’t know anything about. In fact, at least some of those comments have come from someone who admits they know nothing about babies. It’s frustrating to have people who (by their own admission!) don’t know anything about parenting act as though you’re an idiot of not doing something you yourself know will not work.

            *I specify “every infant” because yes I’m sure there are infants who would have no issues with that, but there are also quite a few who would.

            1. inko*

              This, so much. It’s exhausting trying to explain to people that becoming a parent is one of the steepest learning curves I’ve ever been on, and if you haven’t been on that curve, there IS some stuff about babies that I know and you don’t. It’s not an insult, it’s a fact. You don’t have to know, but if you KNOW you don’t know, for heaven’s sake do more listening than talking.

          2. Jeebs*

            Yeah, because some commenters are saying things that demonstrate tht they do in fact not know anything about babies.

            I haven’t seen anyone imply that the LW hates babies or mothers. Some commenters are demonstrating a blatant contempt for children and parents, and are getting responses accordingly.

  59. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    On not getting paid – one of my former employers – a very large firm – missed sending me my paycheck (I think) three times over three months. And payroll BLAMED IT ON ME! “You should have signed up for direct deposit…”

    I explained while it was NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS why I preferred a paper check, I explained =my wife and I have four bank accounts. I have two brokerage accounts and my wife has one (when you are in your 60s and have worked and set up a financial plan, you DO have these things)…. and on any given bi-monthly pay period, I do not know where the money’s going to go.

    They were blaming it on hurricanes, floods, etc. I had to remind them “Yeah the Milton Waddams treatment. But management should know, “Office Space” is a satirical parody, AND is *NOT* a management tutorial.”

    At the time there were a series of strange, well, for lack of a better term, stunts being pulled on me – but, since I’m paid out of Massachusetts – the labor laws are very employee-friendly here. “Did you know that if you delay payment for 30 days, there’s a concept called ‘treble damages.’ Look it up.” They quickly stopped the malarkey.

    1. starsaphire*

      I once had a very VERY dysfunctional job in which I did not, for three years running, get my W2. And every time, I was blamed (for apparently having moved 4 years previously, and corrected my address multiple times) and told (directly, to my face, by the CFO) that the company does not “actually HAVE to” give me a W2. And if I pushed, pressed, quoted regulations, etc., they would hand me a blank one and tell me to fill it out myself.

      For three years I did my taxes with my December paycheck stubs, because I had no W2. (Somehow they were able to regularly send out check stubs, but not a W2…???)

      Yes, this CFO was eventually “forcibly retired” but it was way, way, WAY too late to fix most of the shenanigans they pulled…

  60. H3llifIknow*

    I’m a Mom. I’ve always worked, so I’m sympathetic, to a degree. BUT… for LW 1’s colleague, it seems that it is just Momma is enjoying being at home with baby and thinks that everyone should find baby as cute and fun as she does (ala using baby’s hands to “wave” at everyone). I’d either turn off incoming video (I always do, regardless. I hate it with a passion) or vaguely say, every now and then “could you repeat that? It’s hard to concentrate on work with a cute baby to look at.” Or even “Marsha, I can’t focus when all I want to do is hold that baby! Can you please put her down?” But, I dont’ think this is about lack of childcare, I think it’s about lack of WANTING childcare.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      it seems that it is just Momma is enjoying being at home with baby and thinks that everyone should find baby as cute and fun as she does

      Where are you getting that? It sounds to me like the mother hasn’t been able to get the child into daycare and is trying to make the best out of a bad situation.

      or vaguely say, every now and then “could you repeat that? It’s hard to concentrate on work with a cute baby to look at.”

      That is so passive aggressive (not to mention it would sound kind of weird to me).

      Or even “Marsha, I can’t focus when all I want to do is hold that baby! Can you please put her down?”

      Where is Marsha supposed to put the baby? If the baby cries when not being held that’s likely going to make it even harder to focus.

      But, I dont’ think this is about lack of childcare, I think it’s about lack of WANTING childcare.

      That’s an incredibly uncharitable take based on absolutely nothing in the letter.

      1. Allonge*

        it seems that it is just Momma is enjoying being at home with baby and thinks that everyone should find baby as cute and fun as she does

        Where are you getting that? It sounds to me like the mother hasn’t been able to get the child into daycare and is trying to make the best out of a bad situation.

        Franky, both of these are total speculation. There are plenty of people desperately doing their best and plenty of people happily taking advantage of being able to stay tome with their baby.

        1. Lydia*

          Pretty much this. We don’t know the situation with this mother, why the baby is at home, and most of the commenters are trying to be charitable and consider it’s possible she’s been unable to find childcare. That might or might not be true, and it doesn’t really matter. I think the letter is intentionally vague and the OP might already suspect they’re out of step with things and didn’t provide details to be a more sympathetic protagonist in their story. I think most of us agree the baby is probably not that distracting, and we agree that if the baby is being loud, or mom is actively playing with the baby during the meeting, that would be distracting at at that point the OP should bring it up with their manager.

    2. Aimless and Abstract*

      What makes you think that? Are you really that ignorant of the realities of child care for babies right now? Or are you just ascribing the worst to this mom?

    3. Observer*

      vaguely say, every now and then “could you repeat that? It’s hard to concentrate on work with a cute baby to look at.” Or even “Marsha, I can’t focus when all I want to do is hold that baby!

      Why would you do that?

      Even if you are right that it’s just the Mom not wanting childcare, why would you deliberately disrupt your meeting?

      If the baby is ACTUALLY disruptive, you can call it out in the moment or speak to your manager about it. But playing games like this? FAR more unprofessional than having the baby there. I’d be seriously wondering about your judgement if you were my employee.

    4. whoevenneedsausername*

      I dont’ think this is about lack of childcare, I think it’s about lack of WANTING childcare.

      In the interest of respecting the commenting rules, I will not repeat here my verbal reaction to this nonsense. Working parents want childcare. Childcare is (in many cases prohibitively) expensive, has wait lists, etc, and is treated like a luxury in this country. If you take issue with this, vote like it.

      You don’t come across as remotely sympathetic here.

    5. Cordelia*

      How odd! if there’s a specific problem with the mother’s work performance that is impacting your work, then raise the actual problem with their manager. Saying that you are unable to work because you are so overwhelmed by the sight of a baby that you can’t stop thinking about holding it will lead your manager to think more negatively of you and your work performance than of the mother’s.

    6. Claire*

      That’s right, if the parents just wanted childcare harder, it would appear. BRB manifesting a childcare spot!

  61. Jessica Fletcher*

    It’s the waving that’s the issue. She’s teaching the baby to interact with the people on the screen. So as the baby gets older, she’s going to start taking the initiative to interact with the meeting, waving on her own, talking to people, showing people her toys, etc. That’s going to be extremely distracting to everyone, and upsetting to the kid to suddenly be discouraged from it.

    There’s no reason the baby can’t be offscreen sometimes but still right next to mom. She should start teaching the baby the meetings aren’t for her, so the baby will be more comfortable as she gets older. She could even have a baby tablet and have baby meetings with a quiet/silent Elmo video or something.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      It’s the waving that’s the issue. She’s teaching the baby to interact with the people on the screen.

      She’s literally just holding a baby. Babies move. Babies already interact (especially with screens). We don’t know that she’s doing this throughout the meeting or just at the beginning. If she is doing it throughout the whole thing that is a bit much, but it’s also a LOT to say she’s “teaching” the baby to interact with the people on the screen.

      So as the baby gets older, she’s going to start taking the initiative to interact with the meeting, waving on her own, talking to people, showing people her toys, etc. That’s going to be extremely distracting to everyone, and upsetting to the kid to suddenly be discouraged from it.

      The baby is only 6 months. None of that is going to be happening for quite a while and presumably by then the mother will have found childcare.

      There’s no reason the baby can’t be offscreen sometimes but still right next to mom.

      Tried that with my baby. She screamed her head off. Next.

      She should start teaching the baby the meetings aren’t for her, so the baby will be more comfortable as she gets older.

      Again, the baby is 6 months old. You can try teaching the baby, but the baby still won’t be able to comprehend what is happening.

      She could even have a baby tablet and have baby meetings with a quiet/silent Elmo video or something.

      At 6 months the baby probably doesn’t have the dexterity to hold a tablet, and silent videos aren’t going to do much (hell, even videos with sound might not do much if the baby wants to be held).

    2. HannahS*

      You have a really unrealistic picture of what is reasonable or even possible for a child of that age. You’ve commented elsewhere that it seems like people assume that you hate children or mothers, but it’s more nuanced to say that you’re speaking like someone who doesn’t understand young children, and making suggestions as if you do. Making suggestions like “you can just give your baby a tablet” or “you can just put your baby down” implies that you think this woman–and mothers in general–is not intelligent enough to consider that on her own. It makes it seem like you know better how another group should handle their challenges. I’m sure you’re aware that the challenges mothers face are rooted in misogyny (the idea that you have to have a baby, but if the baby inconveniences anyone in any way you’re a terrible mother, also *gestures at the hellscape of childcare and reproductive rights in the US*) and that’s why a lot of thoughtless criticism of mothers is taken as playing into misogyny. I doubt very much that you HATE mothers, but you do sound like you think that women who have children are dumb, rather than possibly more knowledgeable than you about what is possible right now for them and their children.

    3. inko*

      The baby isn’t learning stuff like that yet. The baby doesn’t know it’s a meeting. The baby is still figuring out that she has hands. You honestly don’t need to worry about the baby learning bad habits about disrupting meetings at this point.

      Also, many babies won’t settle for ‘next to’ their grown up, they need to be physically held or they will scream, which is far more disruptive.

      Honestly, this is another example of stuff that sounds plausible if you haven’t raised any babies, but is actually way out of whack with what happens when in child development.

    4. Jeebs*

      The baby is a young human. As she gets older, she’s going to learn to interact with people on a screen regardless of whether or not it’s ‘taught’ to her, because she is also a people.

  62. Kitry*

    I have absolutely written my boss a thank you note after each raise. However, I also routinely receive thank you notes from my boss at the conclusion of a large project, or when I cover for coworkers who are out unexpectedly, so perhaps I just work in an unusually polite workplace.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I don’t think it’s a matter of politeness, really, and most of the people that I’ve met who expect to be thanked profusely for a salary increase or earned bonus are the ones who think that they’re doing their employees a favor by hiring them. It’s not a trait I see in high-performing managers. I think it’s the power differential that is involved with this sort of expression of gratitude that makes me uncomfortable.

      I see this sort of thanking as similar to the gift rule – it should generally only flow downward. I use thanks as a way to let my team know that I see what they are contributing/accomplishing, especially if it’s something like spot coverage or a project that was large or more of a bear than we’d hoped it would be.

      Receiving salary increases to, at minimum, keep pace with the cost of living, market, and increased skills is, in an ideal world, not something people would need to express gratitude for. It’s a fee for service arrangement, and the money is the best “thanks” I can think of for them. They don’t owe me anything except to do their job, treat their coworkers with respect, and adhere to policy.

  63. MrsThePlague*

    I’m probably going to get vilified for this, so I’ll try to phrase it as gently as possible.

    As a child-free/less person, I find it really surprising how little empathy there is for people who would rather not have children in a traditionally non-child environment like the workplace.

    And yes, I *do understand* that:
    – we are in extraordinary times that require some accommodation
    – these times hit working mothers particularly hard
    – if women had different options, they would choose them
    – the childcare system in the US is deeply, deeply broken

    I am not saying that these mothers should be shamed in the public square.

    What I find surprising, though, is that the overwhelming sentiment in the comments seems to be “how could you possibly find it distracting/how very dare you?”

    Babies by their very nature are distracting, at the very least to parent (they gurgle and make cute faces; they cry; they need to be engaged and bounced and soothed; they need all the things that much more knowledgeable commenters in this very section have described!), and even if not everyone is distracted by them, some people are (because they have attention issues; because they remind them of fertility issues; because they’re wondering whether Jane having a newborn will mean she can’t help out with the after-hours project next week). I think we can have some grace for that.

    It’s strange, too, because some of the comments seem to imply that it’s both no big deal to have a baby at work, and that *of course* you can’t put the baby down to work because babies need X,Y,Z kind of attention at all times, which – it makes total sense that they need that attention! but also seems like something you have to take time out of work to do? I mean, there’s a reason daycare exists in the first place, right?

    None of this means that means that the mothers are bad people, or that they should be made to personally solve the childcare crisis! None of this means we shouldn’t be understanding and accommodating of the situation they’re in. I get that my personal discomfort will have to take a back seat to the more pressing issue of making sure a child is safe and cared for.

    I guess what I’m saying, though, is that I think we can have some empathy for the fact that while this naturally causes the most stress for parents in this situation, it can, not unreasonably, also be stressful for the people who are helping to accommodate it. It feels unkind to shame people for their natural reactions to a pretty big change in the work culture. This LW in particular doesn’t seem to be angry or rude (she seems pretty sympathetic, in fact) – she’s just trying to figure out how to do her job in a new and uncomfortable (for parents and non-parents) situation.

    Finally, not for nothing, but I think as much as it’s possible, we should try not to normalize the kids-at-work thing – NOT because I hate kids or blame parents, but rather because the more we normalize it, the easier it is for political parties to pass on fixing it. I think right now it’s a matter of threading the needle between accommodating a bad situation (which many people are doing admirably) and pushing to change the bad situation (which, again, a lot of people are doing admirably).

    Okay, thanks for attending my Ted talk! :P

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      I don’t see anyone being angry or rude to the LW (nor do I see anyone saying “how could you possibly find it distracting/how very dare you?” but please point me to those if I’m wrong). What I see is those of us who have had to work with children at home get frustrated by a constant chorus (including from people who admit they don’t have kids!) of “Well just put them in a crib! Why don’t you just hand them off to a nanny! Why can’t the spouse take a turn! Stop choosing to keep them home over daycare” as though we (and the woman in this situation) are too stupid to have thought about that (or that we’ve actively chosen this situation).

      Here’s the things: those of us having to juggle babies and work know that they’re distracting. But so are people’s cats and dogs, yet those popping up on screen don’t seem to elicit the same amount of sneering as it seems having to have a baby on screen does. Lots of things are distracting! I sometimes get lost trying to see what books someone has on their shelf! Sometimes I’m distracted by someone’s artwork. Even in the office I might be distracted by someone’s outfit or hairstyle. But that’s on me to control. Yes, babies fall into a very different category (though, see again, cats and dogs etc.) but at the end of the day if the manager doesn’t have an issue and the LW can’t point to any way that it’s actually affecting her (and the feedback thing doesn’t really cut it in my opinion) her best option is to work on how she can lessen how she reacts to it.

      It’s strange, too, because some of the comments seem to imply that it’s both no big deal to have a baby at work, and that *of course* you can’t put the baby down to work because babies need X,Y,Z kind of attention at all times, which – it makes total sense that they need that attention! but also seems like something you have to take time out of work to do? I mean, there’s a reason daycare exists in the first place, right?

      The piece you seem to be missing here is the large number of us pointing out that there is a scarcity of childcare right now (more so in the pandemic). Even folks who have childcare have it fall through (I had to keep my daughter home for a week and a half because my provider’s husband got COVID and she runs it out of her home). And what most people are saying is that having the child in your lap (if they are awake) is going to be FAR LESS distracting than putting them down in a crib or playpen and having them cry in the background the entire time.

      I appreciate you approaching this from a level-headed place, and I hope my response has helped.

      1. MrsThePlague*

        Thanks, Jennifer – I hear what you’re saying and definitely makes sense!

        I think if you read some of the comments above, you’ll for sure notice a lot of “how are you distracted by a baby? *I* would never be distracted by that” type comments. (Sorry, I know that sounds vague – I don’t want to point to specific commenters in case it comes across as mean or singling out!). It just seems a bit dismissive, you know?

        And I totally hear you about cats, dogs, etc. being distracting, too (lots of comments about that, too!). But I think the point is that, in this new zoom-meeting age, we’re trying to minimize distractions as much as possible – so, having a neutral background, for example, or not using weird face filters (like that unfortunate lawyer with the cat face last year lol). Certainly pets can pose an issue, but they tend (though not always, of course) to require less constant attention than a baby (naturally!).

        Of course, different people’s mileage may vary. And to your point, I totally understand that sometimes childcare falls through. It may not sound like it, but I really am sympathetic to what parents are going through right now – I know it’s unimaginably hard.

        I just also feel that, as this is a totally new work norm, it’s fair for non-parents to still be working out how to adjust to it. That ranges from getting used to seeing babies/parents tending to babies on screen, to figuring out how to redistribute work to accommodate parent needs.

        Hopefully this comes across kindly!

        1. inko*

          My feeling is that we’re moving steadily away from professional norms that were set way back when offices were chiefly populated by men, and those men had wives at home to do all the childcare and the messy stuff. So professional culture is still that we Don’t Let That Stuff Intrude. It doesn’t belong in the workplace. Those norms rely on a vast amount of invisible labour, almost exclusively done by women, either unpaid stay-at-home mothers or low-paid childcare workers (making childcare pay as a business is HARD, they run on crazy tight margins and last time I used childcare – pre-pandemic – it still cost almost all of my take-home pay).

          The pandemic and the childcare crisis have made all that labour much more visible. You can’t hide it any more. There’s no one available to take the child out of sight. And yes, this is a change, and a lot of people (again, often women) are now being forced to do/show things that have long been considered unprofessional. Change is always uncomfortable in some ways. I think a lot of the pushback and frustration from parents on posts like this arises because the alternatives are so unbelievably harmful to women – it is women who will be forced out of the workplace if we can’t find a way to accommodate caregiving responsibilities alongside work. (And that also goes for elder care, caring for disabled people, all of it. It’s work with low pay, little respect, and it gets cobbled together on a shoestring until something like the pandemic happens and it can no longer be outsourced at all.)

          So it absolutely is understandable for non-parents to still be figuring out how to adjust! But when you’re trying to fit about 36 hours into every 24, juggling a job that keeps the roof over your head together with looking after a tiny human whose needs are completely non-negotiable, it’s hard to even know how to react when someone says, ‘That makes me feel weird, I don’t understand why you have to be so weird at work now?’ or ‘Can’t you just…not do that aspect of childcare?’ As if the discomfort of adjusting can be avoided somehow. This is vital work that’s been going on behind the scenes this whole time, and all of a sudden it’s front-of-house – and it turns out a lot of people never really understood that it was happening at all, and don’t respect the time and skill it takes. I know that’s not you! But I think this is where a lot of the ‘so it’s a baby, get over it’ pushback comes from.

          1. inko*

            (I meant to say that I don’t really think that’s what LW is doing either – the lack of awareness of/respect for childcare labour, I mean. I just mean that, yeah, there are times when the discomfort of change will be present. But if the baby’s not being disruptively loud, and the mother isn’t ignoring the meeting/failing to get work done, then the issue is just that it’s distracting having a baby present because it feels weird and different. There really isn’t much to be done about that other than carrying on and getting used to it.)

            1. MrsThePlague*

              This (what you’ve written in both posts) is a really good way to frame it, and I appreciate your position a lot. And to be clear, I totally agree that, at the end of the day, accommodating women takes precedence over others’ discomfort (I know you weren’t saying that I disagreed, just wanted to emphasize the point!).

              The only thing I would push back on – and feel free to push back again! – is the point that we should get used to it. I totally agree that the workplace is changing from a time when it was predominantly men, and that means that things are going to look different/feel weird for a bit.

              But my fear in normalizing this particular change is that it lets politicians off the hook for ensuring that parents – in particular mothers – have adequate resources on hand to be able to comfortably work to support themselves *and* be able to parent in the ways that they need to.

              It doesn’t have to look like more daycares – maybe in a more mother-friendly company, there are built-in culture changes that would work better for mother employees! – but I do think it needs to be deliberate and thoughtful, supported by our public institutions and in line with what mothers are saying they need. I just would hate to see a temporary (and stressful for the mother) stop-gap measure turn into a permanent thing.

              (Of course, as mentioned, I’m not a parent, so maybe this kind of bring-your-kid-work approach works for mothers – but my sense from the comments is that it’s…somewhat less than ideal lol).

              1. inko*

                Oh, I do agree, that’s a very valid concern. It’s definitely not a good long-term solution for parents (as usual, mostly women) to just look after their own kids on the clock. Nobody wins if the expectation shifts and ‘why can’t you just get childcare’ becomes ‘why can’t you just do it with a toddler on your hip’.

                I guess though that it’s a question of who we push back against, and how, when we’re acting on that concern. If the pushback reaches the woman who can only attend the meeting if she bounces the baby on her knee throughout, then it kind of ends up as ‘I don’t think you’re struggling enough for politicians to care about, so let me make today a bit harder for you, you’ll thank me later’. That’s a hard sell.

          2. Claire*

            +1 to this work always having been done by someone who is either unpaid or very likely low paid. It really drives home how much we *all* rely on people who care for children.

  64. RB*

    # 5 sounds more like a breakdown in the administrative process in how people get paid, especially as it relates to new hires. If the employee could figure out where the disconnect lies and get some help addressing it, that might be all that is needed. It sounds like a really convoluted process with not enough checks and balances to ensure all hours worked are actually paid out to the people who worked them.

  65. Free Meerkats*

    makes it hard to give any difficult feedback to this coworker, since they’re holding their tiny child.

    How? Why? I honestly don’t understand why this is a problem.

    1. Giant Kitty*

      Right? That had to be the weirdest part of the whole letter for me. A baby doesn’t understand or care, so what exactly is the issue?

  66. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

    A note to mothers reading this and other AAM posts about parenting:

    It can be rough sometimes, can’t it? Sometimes it looks like society second-guesses, disparages, and vilifies mothers (and this falls disproportionately on mothers) for every decision you make starting with pregnancy itself. I just wanted to offer a tiny spark of encouragement. I’m just one person with nothing but a voice, but I wanted to say that I trust you are doing your best and I am cheering you on.

  67. Calamity Janine*

    i admit i both get lw1 finding it distracting because i would find it distracting too (i am both Not A Baby Person and also Have The ADHD Brain Weirds) …and also think this is just one of those things to adjust to for awhile.

    it’s already been discussed a bit, but lw1, i would urge you to take a second and look up some articles about how cold and flu season is hitting children and filling pediatric hospitals. it’s a historically bad year for that – and an even more historically awful year for RSV. and this RSV season of historical import because of the number of children, largely infants, that it is putting in the hospital… or in a grave.

    it may be a little distracting to have the baby bouncing on your coworker’s knee, sure. it’s not something that is codified as a regular business practice, and some workplaces would consider it unprofessional, yeah. whether they’re right or wrong for doing so is increasingly not relevant. same with if you coworker is breaking some meeting etiquette.

    this is a fairly unique situation that arose from a confluence of circumstances, the vast majority of which neither you nor your co-worker can control. (unless you are secretly in charge of all communicable disease spreading in all communities, in which case, my answer will drastically change.) or to be far more simultaneously extremely cheeky and grim: just think of how much more disrupting it would be to have a colleague in mourning for a child, sniffling weepily through meetings…

    a good rule will acknowledge there are times when something can technically break it, but it’s got legit circumstances that justify that broken rule. that’s where your co-worker is at. other folks have mentioned other parts of the problem, but i feel like RSV is something that just doesn’t come up much unless you’re already tapped in to the ‘news for parents’ sphere. i honestly mostly heard about it because so many of my old college classmates are doctors now, and how some other friends are teachers, so two sources from the front line as it were lol. without being hooked in to that bit of culture, it’s sometimes genuinely hard to know what the obvious and pressing problems are for parents right now. my thank-you-but-no-children, only-auntie-material-not-mommy-material self only knows little trickles of this info second-hand, after all.

    i’d encourage you to reframe it mentally not as –

    “why does she get to sit and play with her baby in meetings, that’s so unprofessional and distracting!”

    to instead be more like –

    “this is a sign of the strange times we live in. but i’m glad i work at a place that can be accommodating in this way, even though this particular thing lowkey annoys me. kind of like how having the auto generated captions on screen are distracting when they botch it – which is often – but i can put up with it, because Bobert is partially deaf and Billip has auditory processing issues, so it’s how Bobert and Billip are able to participate in the meetings. it’s nice to know that my workplace isn’t committed to the letter of the law of ‘Don’t Distract Others’ as to prefer it instead of compassion.”

    try to think of it less as an annoying burden that must be suffered through. instead focus on how you’re exhibiting compassion here, and how that kindness is becoming a defining feature of y’all’s workplace. this is group effort and one you should be proud of, too! you are helping to build and maintain that community that approaches things compassionately, and that’s great! …for everyone, including you!

    after all, if you have kids of your own (and are interested in that and so on at cetera), you know you have a supportive company culture there. baby’s colicky and home sick from daycare and will only sleep with you holding theme for the entirety of the next two weeks? good news, you can still keep up with your work. what a relief! or if you have something else come up, you know that the workplace is full of people who will make compassionate exceptions. so you can absolutely be quietly bottle feeding those foster kittens every 4 hours on the dot, since they’re nice and quiet, during the weekly general check-in meeting. and it’ll be okay. you won’t have to sit there sweating as you work out the math for if the weak and tiny runts of the litter will be too negatively affected by a delayed or skipped feeding.

    or, yknow, anything else that’s a reasonable exception, too.

    maybe excluding “brb my light switch is bleeding”.

    had a guy abruptly drop out of a world of warcraft group with that line, once, many years ago. still trying to figure out what exactly he meant…

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