my boss said she doesn’t think mothers can fully commit to their jobs

A reader writes:

I’ve been at my current company for 10 years. In 2021, I had my first baby. Every department I’ve worked in has been very supportive and flexible — not just of me, but of anyone who needs to adjust their schedule for caregiving duties, doctors’ appointments, and even social events. We’re hybrid so we’ve been expected to go into the office once a month up until now; last month the acting CEO announced he wants us in the office four days a week (for literally no reason other than he doesn’t understand remote work, but that’s another situation entirely).

Anyway, I’m on a new team now with a leader who’s not supportive of mothers. I say this because when she and I were talking about going back, I said I had needed to adjust my childcare schedule, which turned into a conversation about who watches my child while I’m working. I told her my husband watches him because we work opposite schedules. She said that was unacceptable because she didn’t feel like I could fully commit to being an employee while also being a mother; she said even though my husband is watching my child, I was still a mom and would not be able to focus on work and that dads were different, they can work and not focus on their children. I was stunned. I was caught off guard so I just mumbled something about being on the waitlist for the on-property daycare and kind of changed the subject. She then went on some weird rant about how she hates when moms take their kids to the grocery store and how they should be placed in daycare for that as well — I guess she doesn’t realize daycare isn’t cheap and she doesn’t pay me enough to drop my kid off anytime I need to go out in public.

There is a dad on the team who frequently shows his daughter off during Zoom meetings, so I don’t think this is a conversation they’ve had.

Am I right to feel incredibly offended and targeted? I’m the only mother on the team so it feels like my opportunities under this manager are always going to be limited from now on because she has this strange idea of working mothers in her head.

I would go to employee relations but she has been with the company for years so I’m not sure if they’d even help; this conversation also happened over Zoom so there’s no record of it.

You can’t fully commit to being an employee while also being a mother?! What does that even mean? No mothers should have jobs?

Maybe what she means is that if your child is in your house while you’re working, she doesn’t believe you’ll be able to keep your full attention on your job … but then that would mean a full-time nanny would be an unacceptable child care solution too, and I doubt she’d argue that. It sounds like this is about the fact that it’s your husband who’s providing child care while you work — she doesn’t believe a man can really have full charge of a child while a woman is present.

This is gross.

It’s also illegal, if she lets it affect the way she treats you, which you have to assume it does. She’s not legally permitted to treat working mothers different than working fathers, and she’s opening your company to some serious legal liability by making comments like that.

I do think you need to escalate it. Your company sounds like it’s generally very supportive of working parents; this manager is likely an aberration, and one your company would want to know about so they can step in and address it. You said you’re worried about escalating it because she’s been there for years, but your company isn’t going to want any employee, regardless of tenure, creating legal liability for them. In fact, you’ll be doing them a favor by reporting it now rather than waiting, since waiting would risk her doing stuff that gets them in deeper trouble. And you don’t need to worry that you don’t have a record of the conversation; that’s usually the case with stuff like this (and discrimination and harassment in general) and it’s highly reportable anyway.

Let your company know what your boss said, and use this language: “It sounds like I’m being treated differently than men on the team because Jane doesn’t believe mothers can fully commit to their jobs, which would be gender-based discrimination.”

Don’t let this go; it’s a big deal.

Read an update to this letter

{ 438 comments… read them below }

  1. Minerva*

    I have so many questions? I have to assume this woman is child-free? Does she feel this way if you have older children? What if there is a *single* dad in the group. I would love to sit down and grill her about these beliefs.

    But yeah, if she is treating working mothers differently than working fathers you have to say something.

    1. Laura*

      My first thought was that she based her belief on her own experience and home life with an inattentive partner..

      1. Cat Lady Esq.*

        That was 100% my take on it as well…. That she is an older mom and didn’t work when her kids were young, and had an old-fashioned gender stereotyping male partner who did nothing around the house, and can’t conceive that things have changed and that men are actually capable of being active and engaged parents and partners.

      2. ADidgeridooForYou*

        That’s what I would have thought, but the part about how children should be put in daycare for grocery store trips makes me think she’s one of those Child Free (TM) people (note that I’m childfree as well, don’t particularly love kids, and don’t believe anyone HAS to enjoy them – I’m talking about the minority of people you see online sometimes who seem to believe that children’s existence is offensive and that they should stay in their homes until they turn 18). But who knows? Maybe she is just unfairly pulling from her own existence that has made her bitter.

        1. Gerry Keay*

          Yup, I picked up on that and assumed that as well. The whole “children should be neither seen nor heard” crowd is intense and very strange.

          1. I have RBF*

            LOL. I was raised that “children should be neither seen nor heard” in public or adult social situations.

            All that meant is that my sister and I learned to behave ourselves in public, and not be screamy or interrupting unless it was important.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              That’s very different from what’s meant here.

              I made the mistake of getting involved in a thread started by a librarian saying libraries are no longer the silent places they used to be, that the kid’s section especially will have a lot of activities – rhyme time or readings for example – which will make noise and as long as the noise was happy, restricted to the children’s section, and a reasonable moderate volume that matched the activity, that was normal and not wrong.

              A few people threw fits at this, and said that children running around screaming all over the place was not even a bit appropriate.

              And I was told I was a negligent entitled parent who didn’t care about the rights of others for saying that it’s a reality that children will occasionally *make sounds* especially when happy, and that this is not even close to the same thing as screaming or running around.

              1. Cera*

                Haha. My local library literally held a series of nerf wars that occurred throughout the library, all sections allowed. The broke it out in age divisions. After the 1st set, they also had an adult only division after parents kept saying they wanted to play too.

                1. Isolda*

                  Oh wow! I am going to propose this at the library where I volunteer! Brilliant idea! We are always looking for community engagement ideas.

              2. yes I'm a librarian*

                If only KIDS were the only noise creators in the library. So many adults seem incapable of modulating their volume, too, especially when they’re on the phone. Like, en masse, yes, children probably create the bulk of the noise, but often the problem there is ALSO that their parents don’t seem to be doing any kind of supervision.

              3. Felis alwayshungryis*

                I worked at a library that had a half-hour story time once a week, which involved stories, singing and dancing. My god, the complaints from some people, you’d think it had become a rehearsal space for Guns n’ Roses. We just gave them a flyer with the times on it so they could choose not to come in then.

            2. Ismonie*

              I was raised to participate in adult social situations and go out in public. My dad’s grad school friends were a blast. I’m still close with some of them now, in my 40s. Like bonus aunts and uncles.

              I was very well-behaved, but am raising my kids to be a little less restrained. Glad it worked out for you.

        2. Minerva*

          Yeah I jumped to childfree because the idea of putting your kid in daycare to go grocery shopping is way to bizarre a thought for people 99% of who have had kids.

              1. BethDH*

                I think it’s that to have this opinion she must be child-free, not that all child-free people are this way.

            1. Queen of the Introverts*

              Yup. If you know people who have kids, you know how freaking expensive childcare is.

              On a related note, one of my coworkers owns a daycare with his wife (she’s the on-site manager, he mostly helps out with administrative stuff) and he’s very quick to point out that those astronomical daycare costs don’t go into his pocket. Providers have their own set of headaches, like finding qualified teachers.

              This coworker and another of my male coworker (whose wife is a teacher) are always jumping off calls to pick kids up from school/daycare. Sick kid? They’ll stay home, since it’s harder for their wives to take time off. They’re 100% present dads.

              1. Violet*

                Not just expensive, but where is this magical land of daycares that are available at all hours any day of the week for dropping kids off for an hour at a time just for a grocery run? All the daycares around me have years-long waitlists, are open 7:30am-ish to 6pm-ish M-F, and require at least a half-time commitment to hold a spot.

                1. Kindred Spirit*

                  They exist, but I don’t know how common it is. I live in the suburbs of a metropolitan area, and there are drop-in daycare facilities. When my children were young, I used drop-in care if I had an daytime appointment or wanted to go to a class at the gym (right around the corner and they subsidized the childcare fee, so win-win). I knew of families that used the drop-in daycare to cover a gap of a couple of hours between the parents’ work shifts. It was such a relief just to know it was available if I needed it.

                2. WS*

                  My local gym does indeed have a daycare that goes hourly (maximum three hours per child once a week) so that carers (90% mothers) can go to the gym. A lot of them book the kids in for three hours and fit in things like shopping and doctor’s appointments. It’s fairly cheap because it’s supported by our council rates and I think it’s a great idea. But it doesn’t and can’t cover more than that.

            2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

              So bizarre. Like, there is one thing to say “Really, it makes life terrible for everyone if you take your kid to Trader Joe’s during peak shopping time, they have a meltdown in the middle of a busy aisle and you decide not to take them out of the store (like the my parents did if my siblings or I were causing a scene) but to just continue shopping while everyone else desperately tries to navigate your flailing toddler” and another to say “The mere presence of a sleeping 8 pound baby in the produce aisle an affront to to my very being”.

              1. Onward*

                I will say — it’s certainly inconvenient when a child has a meltdown in the grocery store. It’s nice when the parents can take the children out of the store to calm down (or not shop at a peak shopping time) but sometimes this just isn’t feasible.

                I can tell you that my 3 year old has luckily never had a meltdown in a store (knock on like a thousand pieces of wood) but the level of stress that I would be feeling if she DID is astronomical because of all the people who would be judging me. Knowing me, I would probably be on the verge of a breakdown myself. Sometimes the better option is to get the stuff as quickly as possible while trying to minimize damages so that you can get your food and get out, rather than taking them out of the store and extending this whole experience (while leaving your grocery cart in the middle of the store).

                1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

                  Yes, this.

                  People need to buy their groceries, and shockingly parents are one of the primary groups of people whose only time to be out and about are during “prime” times. Sometimes kids are just inconsolable – especially toddlers. It’s not like they can drop everything and come back at 8pm, or come back tomorrow if they need eggs and milk today.

                2. Ellis Bell*

                  People in general do get this about meltdowns, it’s only the very intolerant who wouldn’t. I think the point is that this boss is such a whole other layer of intolerance, that even the quiet uneventful presence of any child is a no go. That’s intense.

                3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

                  Yes, just to clarify, I said “terrible for everyone” because I am well aware that this parent is also hating every moment of what is happening and wishes it wasn’t and likely wishes they could just grab their kid and bolt. If your child is melting down and I see you are dealing with it, as much as a screaming child sets my teeth on edge, I’m not passing judgement on the poor soul whose ear is right next to that screaming child desperately trying to figure out what magic combination of words, toys, games, hypnotism will return that child to it’s non-screaming state.

                4. Alanna*

                  Also it’s good for kids to be exposed to public places and learn how to act in public. Obviously there are limits (your 4-year-old is a long way from going to fine dining alone, they don’t need to be at your table at prime dinner hour at a Michelin-starred restaurant), but there’s a reason children’s museums have grocery stores — they are generally exciting places to go when you’re little!

              2. Felis alwayshungryis*

                The best thing that ever happened to me was the stranger, an older lady, who gave me a hug when my then-2yo had a mammoth meltdown in the dairy aisle and absolutely nothing I tried was working. She had my back.

                1. Willow Pillow*

                  My child-free spouse and I went for dinner a few weeks ago with the equivalent of double coupons. There was a young family nearby, and the mother spent most of my time there trying to get her son to sit and eat while her partner did nothing. I anonymously paid for their meal on my way out. Yeah, it was annoying, but she was obviously having a way worse time and I know she was trying her best.

                2. AnotherJen*

                  Partly this is to thank WillowPillow below (nesting doesn’t allow me to put this under her comment) and partly it’s to say I had a similar experience when I flew Denver -> Minneapolis with my then-8 month old. Who screamed for the entire flight, and there was literally nothing I could do to settle him down. I was nearly in tears by the time we landed, and an older couple getting off the plane stopped at my row to say “you’re doing a great job being a mom!” which was the single kindest thing I can imagine anyone doing. I’ve been trying to pay that forward (or back, whichever way that works) to the world for the past 21 years!

              3. Artemesia*

                I shopped with my kids and never had a melt down — lucky to be sure — it was an outing and we talked about meal plans or when toddlers about choosing things and holding the box for Mommy. I rarely see kids melting down in the store — yes occasionally — but rarely. If you have a kid who does this often then arranging for your partner to cover while you shop or vise versa is prudent but most kids cope pretty well.

                The cost of day care is astronomical; I truly don’t know how people with average paying jobs pay for it. My grandson’s day care costs as much as a minimum wage job per year.

                1. Felis alwayshungryis*

                  It’s only happened to me once. It was just that perfect storm of too tired (I think she was dropping the last nap), probably hungry, and having no option but to go shopping otherwise there would be no dinner.

                  I’m lucky to live in a country with childcare subsidies and not in an expensive area, but I really feel for people who are basically working to pay for daycare. We should be doing better for families.

            3. NeedRain47*

              This. I don’t have kids but I’m fully aware that childcare costs money and is not like… just toss your kid out on the way anytime you want.

          1. 2 Cents*

            Part of me would love it though, so I could actually have a complete thought sometimes LOL (mother of an inquisitive 4YO).

            But really, this manager is SO off with her assumptions — I’d be even more inclined to take it to management because who knows how many other people’s careers she’s stunted because of her weird views.

          2. Curious*

            Why would Cook take the child to the grocery store? Shouldn’t they be left in the care of the Governess?
            /s, if you haven’t guessed.

          3. StaticFives*

            Pre-covid, my favorite local grocery store had a (free!) childcare option inside the store with all kinds of fun toys, a big video screen, crafts, and a qualified and background checked employee to supervise children ages 3-9 while parents shopped. While I never would have thought of such a thing myself or ever dreamed I would need or want childcare at the grocery store.. it was glorious!! My child loved it and begged to go there.

            1. Cici*

              Can I ask how this was monitored? What if someone tried to leave their kid there all day as free childcare?

              1. doreen*

                I can’t say what the grocery stores limits are, but IKEA allows one hour and according to an interview, if the kid isn’t picked up within 2 hours they call the police.

              2. Cera*

                My local chain required that you be available to take the child to the bathroom or change a diaper within 5 mins. They were not licensed for bathroom use. I think they also had a 3 hr time limit (I don’t recall exactly we had just stared using it when covid shut it down).

                They focused more on monitoring from a parental perspective, cause they are leaving their child with an unknown adult. There were video monitors throughout the store where you could see exactly what the employee and children were doing at anytime.

                I love grocery pickup but I sure miss the tot spot.

            2. Varthema*

              Oh my god I’m nearly crying because this sounds so wonderful. Our local IKEA hasn’t had its Smaland open since COVID so I never got to experience the magic.

          4. Love to WFH*

            “99% of who have had kids” prompted me to wonder how many actually do. My husband and I don’t, and we have quite a few friends who don’t. After some searching, I found:
            1 in 6 US adults 55 or older do not have children.

            About 40% of households have children under 18 living in them (that’s 1 or 2 parents per household).

            (While I don’t have kids, I do think they’re perfectly entitled to be on planes and in grocery stores, even when they are loudly protesting how unpleasant those spaces are. ;-) I also think that employers and the government should support parents.)

            1. Flower*

              I think that was meant as “it’s a bizarre idea to 99% of people who have kids” rather than a claim that 99% of people have kids. and it got mixed up while typing.

              I had a similar “wait what? That number is wildly too high” reaction before i decided it was a matter of typing error

        3. I have RBF*

          Yeah, I’m CF, don’t particularly enjoy kids (especially when they are rowdy or misbehaving), but this is… something else. I want to support parents in actually parenting their kids so they grow up to be good people.

          Finding out how the childcare is handled during WFH might be her business, but she doesn’t get to make judgements other than “Is there someone handling it or not?” The other stuff is pretty much the nasty CF stereotype.

          Definitely bring it to HR. This is discriminatory. While your boss can say “You need to have someone watching your young kids while you work at home.” they can’t say “That child minder can’t be a male or a spouse.” or “The childcare must be outside the home.”

          1. GreenDoor*

            “I want to support parents in actually parenting their kids so they grow up to be good people.”
            And this is precisely why I always have taken my kids to the grocery store. So many opportunities to practice manners and courtesy…and now that they’re older, to learn consumerism skills and practice interacting with strangers (clerks). I got COVID and really we needed things. To keep my germs to myself, I sent my 9 year old in by himself and he got the whole job done and was super proud. This boss needs to be reported.

          2. Observer*

            Definitely bring it to HR. This is discriminatory. While your boss can say “You need to have someone watching your young kids while you work at home.” they can’t say “That child minder can’t be a male or a spouse.”

            They ALSO cannot say that women have to meet a higher and significantly more expensive standard than men.

            What you have here is not a question of *if* she treats men and women differently. You have her explicitly stating that her expectations and demand from women are different – higher and more costly demands. And it’s clear that she means it. because your MALE parent has clearly *not* been told that his child is not allowed to be in the house when he works.

            The fact that she has some bizarre, to be kind, ideas of how the world works and the appropriateness of children being seen in public is gross, and I would hope that a decent HR would recognize the toxicity of that. But it’s not something that presents a legal problem in the way that her declaration that it is unacceptable for you to allow your child to be cared for your husband in the home while it’s perfectly OK for a man to do the reverse, does.

      3. sofar*

        Also was my take. My sister’s boss recently said something VERY similar to HER (in fact, I wondered for a moment if she’d written in to AAM and changed a few small details to remain anonymous).

        My sister’s boss is a mother (kids are school age now), and she’s very wealthy, enough to afford a full-time nanny. Guaranteed this woman never took her kids to a grocery store when they were small. Also doubt she herself has been to a grocery store that much, but, if she lowered herself to do “The Shopping,” she likely left the kids with the nanny.

        1. Willow Pillow*

          Years ago there was a manager on my floor with similar circumstances – she’d talk about how most staff (immigrant women in entry-level jobs!) weren’t committed due to childcare, and she worked late at night to catch up. She had a full-time nanny of course, but most of us weren’t even allowed to work from home!

    2. A Penguin!*

      It wouldn’t shock me if this woman had children and was projecting her inability to focus when they were young onto all mothers everywhere.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I kinda doubt she’d say something as out-of-touch as the grocery store comment if she’d raised kids herself.

        1. Zephy*

          Plenty of people have become parents against their will or better judgment, especially in the past. Plenty of people also have weird blind spots in relation to their own families’ behavior versus that of other, unrelated people – that’s so common in fact that it has a name, it’s called the fundamental attribution error (I do X because of good justifiable reasons, others do X because they’re idiots/assholes/both).

        2. Kira Nerys*

          Maybe she was wealthy enough to leave her kids with a nanny, and shopping was her Me Time which was “ruined” when other people’s kids were around.

          1. pope suburban*

            Or maybe she wasn’t, and was penalized by a boss with antiquated views, and now she’s paying that dreck forward. You know how some people will prefer, “I suffered, so you have to suffer too,” over, “I suffered, and I want to fix the system so there is no more suffering.” We seem to see that all the time on this blog, from people working ridiculous long hours to people who refuse to pay junior employees enough to live on. No reason that couldn’t be happening here too.

            1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

              Yup. Pulling up the ladder behind you is a THING. Mix that with some “Kids/women/workers these days have it so easy, back in my day….” and you have a recipe for some pretty unhelpful and down right hostile behavior from the very folks who you would assume could empathize with the struggle others are facing.

      2. Little Miss Me*

        Also…so what? So what if a parent’s focus is off sometimes while working from home with kids in the house? Are they still able to complete the work they need to and to the quality they’re required to? Are they still able to fully participate in meetings? Until it negatively affects their work it shouldn’t be a problem. And I say that as someone who is childfree who occasionally does laundry or cooks lunch or goes to the store during the work day when working from home.

        1. ADidgeridooForYou*

          I don’t have any kids, but there have definitely been meetings where my focus was heavily divided between the speaker and my cat who’s about to jump on the table she’s not allowed on and eat my plant.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I have a new puppy.

            Many, MANY meetings have gotten derailed because he started biting my feet. (Less now because I’ve learned how to keep him occupied, his attention span is now up to like 30 whole seconds, and my feet are no longer the #1 Best Toy In The Whole Wide World, but still occasionally.)

            1. Rural Juror*

              I had success with my bite-y rescue dog by very dramatically yelling OUCH every time she nipped me for my attention. She eventually stopped, but yeah… it wasn’t a good tactic for meetings (haha!)

            2. Cera*

              My st bernard can derail working meeting and virtual school alike. That head is just the right height to shove you and demand pets or just lick a child out of the chair.

        2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          Nod sometimes I don’t get any work done because my boss called me or a client went to the hospital. Stuff happens! If OP is doing work, it’s better to let her do it without worrying if she has a kid. Bosses,man

          1. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.*

            Seriously. I’ve had days where the entire office gets into a debate about the relative merits of Love is Blind or the Real Housewives of [Insert City Here] or the White Lotus. Like, workers are people, people have lives, those lives often include children.

            ( a child screech annoys me on the same level as screeching subway breaks. I realize they’re unavoidable in both cases most of the time, but so is the reaction I have to the sound).

            1. I have RBF*

              Yeah, both I and my spouse have the same problem. It’s not about the kid or the subway car or any similar noisemaker, and is all about the fact that we are sensitive to certain frequencies of sound.

              A coworker having kids doesn’t affect me much unless they ask me to babysit, IMO.

        3. Grace Poole*

          Exactly, a lot of people can have their focus distracted from work for all kinds of reasons– a bad breakup, a flooded basement, a parent with dementia, even a poor nights’ sleep, and on and on. That the boss is putting this distraction solely on mothers is enraging.

          1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            Or just that it’s Thursday at 3:30 and suddenly drawing little spirals on one’s note pad is the only thing your brain is capable of concentrating on.

        4. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I know, right. The expectation that we will all give 100% focus for 8+ hours a day is extremely silly, even in the absence of distractions. Because we physically can’t.

          Companies and bosses have to start recognizing that they employ humans, not robots. Humans get sick, have other responsibilities besides work (including as caretakers), have psychological needs that need to be fulfilled, etc. Policies and practices that don’t take these things into account are going to cause problems for someone.

        5. Lenora Rose*

          Heck, I was in the middle of a Teams meeting *at my workplace* when I got a text form my daughter’s school saying she had a fever (resolved within less than 5 minutes, still via texts, by my husband agreeing to pick her up). You don’t have to be at home to have the occasional issue with focus due to kids. If it can happen to me, here, I’d better give a parent at home a little slack.

      3. Trillian (the original*

        My bet is she’s had to deal with one or more poorly performing employees who used motherhood as an excuse combined with unsupportive upper management.

        1. Observer*


          How is this even CLOSE to reasonable. Replace “motherhood” with almost any other group, and tell me that you wouldn’t see the bigotry inherent in that. Especially since she is claiming that it’s MOTHERS (ie WOMEN) who are a problem, not parents (ie regardless of gender). And in fact she explicitly says that.

        2. I&I*

          Even if she has, she’s still prejudiced and unprofessional. A reasonable person would know that one or two bad experiences don’t sum up an entire group.

    3. londonedit*

      Reasonable child-free people are perfectly capable of not behaving like this. We don’t all hate parents and children and we don’t all think mothers can’t commit to their jobs. We’re also perfectly capable of being empathetic people just as those who choose to have children can be. She is not a reasonable person and whether or not she has children doesn’t come into it.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        My kid is raised and is long gone so technically I am child-free, but I have no problem with kids being around everywhere because they are human and have a right to exist. I wonder how she feels about pet owners because I lost more work time with my cats than my kid.

      2. RJ*

        All of this is accurate, spot on and reasonable. As opposed to this manager who is clearly not and has gender issues with mothers.

      3. Robin Ellacott*

        Yes… I don’t have (or want) children but this woman’s views seem crazy and callous to me.

        Also, NOBODY can or should “fully commit” to their job. We all have other stuff going on. And work should understand that and accommodate it whenever possible.

      4. Timothy (TRiG)*

        There’s child-free, and then there’s ChildFree™. The latter are not reasonable people.

        1. Minerva*

          Right, I in no way intended to disparage perfectly normal humans who happen to have no children.

        2. Anony vas Normandy*

          In the good old days of Livejournal, there was Childfree and Childfree_Hardcore. One group was lovely. The other was full of this woman.

          1. I have RBF*

            Yeah, and before LJ it was UseNet. The “hardcore” folks were obnoxious and unreasonable. IMO they give us ordinary CF folks a bad name.

        3. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

          +8000, Timothy. Unreasonable people gonna Unreasonable. Loud, rambunctious kids irritate me to no end in the same way adults do, but what I do is roll my eyes and move away, not scream that they can’t be there, much as I wish they’d leave. They do get to exist in public! CF ™ people just don’t accept that people in public will be annoying sometimes.

      5. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Thank you. We don’t need to make up some fiction as to why she believes her strange views – that she has them AND feels comfortable enough to not only speak them at work but judge people by them is enough.

        She’s bang out of line. Whether it’s because she doesn’t like children or because she believes mothers have a special bond that fathers don’t that means they can’t concentrate is immaterial.

        Her viewpoints are bigoted. That’s enough.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Her viewpoints are bigoted. That’s enough.
          ^ this right here

          Also, if she acts on them, it is illegal. And an argument could be made that by sharing them with an employee in the context of a discussion about that employee’s child care arrangements, she’s already acting on them.

      6. Caroline*

        Agree completely. I happen to have 3 children, bless their cotton socks, and I know many people who have children, who concentrate beautifully at work, people of both sexes, imagine! I also know people who have children who cannot concentrate on their work for more than 5 minutes. It’s almost as though some people are able to prioritise work more than other people due to so many different reasons, and it’s not really linked to their parental status or their biological sex.

        So weird!!

        1. allathian*

          Yes, I agree.

          I mean, I sort of get it. I’m glad that I never had to juggle having to WFH with a toddler in the house, regardless of who was taking care of the kid while I worked, because I would’ve found it emotionally difficult to focus on my work rather than on my kid’s needs, especially if he started crying. So yeah, I totally doubt that I would’ve been able to fully commit to WFH with a toddler at home. I would’ve tried my best because we need my salary, but I’m absolutely and totally certain I wouldn’t have been as productive as I was working at the office with our son in daycare. But that’s just me, and I think it’s offensive in the extreme to assume that every mom/female presenting birth parent would feel the same way, and that a dad/masculine presenting parent could WFH easily without being distracted by a toddler in the house.

      7. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Childfree and not really by choice, but I don’t get how people cannot understand that tiny humans are part of the world. Like, yes, there are places and situations children should not be…but it isn’t like a baby brings itself to a midnight movie, so why hate on the child?

        Plus, while children are very distracting, so are loud typing, chatting co-workers, trying to find a new dentist, figuring out what the random charge on your credit card is, your uncle calling your office line (how did he get it? we’ll never know!) because he can’t login to his iPad and a million other things that occur or need to be resolved during the work day that aren’t “work.” Life is a never ending series of distractions and somehow the work manages to get done.

      8. Lenora Rose*

        Nobody thinks all, or even most, child-free people are like that. Child-Free(TM) are the tiny fractional minority who give the normal majority a bad name.

        It’s like the difference between a Mom of an autistic child and the Autism Mom (TM) who is usually defined (by adult autistics and occasionally other parents) as the one going on about vaccine injury and/or Autism Speaks type comments about their child being lost and/or how ABA was the best thing ever and how dare anyone say it hurt them.

        1. I&I*

          You have to use that example? There are parents of autistic kids in this thread, and it’s exhausting enough trying to avoid the endless fights and painful subjects in autism-relevant places!

          1. Janel Jarvis*

            There are also a lot of autistic adults in this commenting community, I&I. That’s the main reason it comes up a lot.

    4. Lacey*

      Based on the grocery store comment, I’d say yeah, no kids. Because I have two child-free by choice friends and they both have made similar comments.

      But then, I also have to imagine she’s from some sort of patriarchal background if she’s also saying that men can forget their kids while they’re at work and women can’t.

      1. turquoisecow*

        Yeah I also figured child-free, the sort of almost militantly child-free people who think kids shouldn’t be seen in public, who get annoyed by their very presence in places like grocery stores and airplanes and restaurants.

        The only way I could see a parent voicing those opinions is if they had paid full-time childcare and rarely bothered with their kids, like old-fashioned upper-class people who kept the kids with the nanny in the nursery all day and just stopped by once a week to say hello somewhat reluctantly.

      2. KatEnigma*

        I wouldn’t assume patriarchy. I’ve heard the same thing from hardline feminists, and single moms- over and over and over again- as to why they are deserving of more support/time off/ sympathy etc. Not realizing that the logical thinking leads to women being marginalized in the office.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I was thinking the same, KatEnigma. I know a lot of people who have said stuff, not quite this egregious, but which nonetheless implied an assumption that fathers do not give their children the attention that mothers do and…I really don’t think they are all from patriarchial backgrounds. They weren’t even necessarily from people who were expecting more support. One example was people talking about how difficult it must be for a colleague who had two children about 11 months apart, so she had two toddlers and “I know she has a husband, but sure, you can’t really expect much help there. Men just don’t notice children’s needs in the same way.” Another was a mother with small children expressing concern when we had a male principal appointed as she worried he might not be supportive of working parents. I replied that he had three kids under 6 himself, so would surely know and she replied with something like “ah, but he might not even realise his wife needs to take time off when they are sick, etc. Like my husband has no idea who is minding our kids when we’re at work.”

          In my experience, many women at least take it as a given that men just aren’t that good with small children and don’t automatically respond to their needs the way a woman does. Which is really problematic on so many levels: leads to an assumption that women will do the majority of childcare, is an excuse for men who don’t pull their weight, leads to issues like this where women are considered to be less “committed” to their job or more easily distracted by children and also leads to fathers’ being automatically considered incompetent, not fully trusted with their own kids, sometimes left out of the loop (I’ve heard stay-at-home father complaining that schools and so on ring the mother rather than them or speak to the mother when both attend an appointment).

          1. Em*

            My sister in law took a solo trip a few summers ago to visit a friend on the other side of the country. The minute my brother returned home from dropping her at the airport, he was barraged with calls from her mother and sister that they can come help or he should come stay with them because the assumption was how could he possibly manage his two little kids alone for *gasp* days????! My brother is an equally involved parent who relishes 1-1 time with his babies, and was quite offended with the stereotypical response. I feel like hetero women who take this “dads don’t know anything” approach dig their own graves if/when they have kids, because they don’t trust their partners and train them to be incompetent.

            1. Other Em*

              My mother, from the time my younger sibling was no longer dependent on her presence for food, took an annual solo trip (to go see her family, do admin for an intellectually-disabled aunt, have some time to herself) and left us with my dad. It was great for everyone involved — sib and I were much closer with our dad because of it, we got that fantastic anecdote of “how we got our new microwave” (there was a small fire — to be fair, my dad is a tinkerer and small fires and explosions were not uncommon even when my mother was present, but nobody was expecting the chocolate chips to combust like that), and my mother got some time where she got to be just herself. AND she was a SAHM, so the percent change in duties for my dad was even more drastic. He was fine. We were fine. Because he was our parent and a competent human being.

              1. Em*

                This is great. Microwave dad stories never disappoint!
                I am sure it’s still very hard to resist the guilt/shame that society throws at moms for being their own selves without children occasionally, so your mom doing that however many years ago this was, is rad!

              2. Veryanon*

                This is amazing. My dad is also a tinkerer and this has had sometimes…not great consequences (we won’t discuss the time he almost blew up the house). I wish my mom would have left him alone to manage more often, because the few times she did (usually involving some kind of hospitalization, so not avoidable), he would do something like bleach all the dark clothes. My mother taught me to do my own laundry at a very young age for exactly this reason.

            2. higheredadmin*

              Exactly. If you don’t make/let the other parent watch small children, then guess what – they will not watch small children. Make it happen folks! The stories from my husband when travelling alone with our two kids. People literally falling over themselves to be helpful because how can this clueless man watch two children on a plane. If you are a woman flying alone with small children, all you tend to get it total hatred from everyone around you.

          2. Caroline*

            Unfortunately this does persist because it has been largely quite true for a long time, and there are a lot of families who operate this way, and thus the experience of employers will inevitably mean that they have run into this precise issue, BUT where they err is in thinking this is the way it must be, that it’s just the way it works, forever, in perpetuity, what are you gonna do, etc.

            By being supportive to all employees with care-giving duties, proportionate to circumstance and life stage, while expecting a solid professional performance would be far better.

          3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            Unfortunately, I have witnessed this in some of my elder millennial cishet marriages.

            One father decided he would not give up any of his social/networking/volunteer commitments (which he had something like 4 nights a week) after he and his wife had a child until “there was an issue.” The thing was, someone does actually have to pick up a baby at daycare and watch it. It’s not a plant you can forget to water or a project you can turn in a little late at work. Since this dude had after work commitments, his wife would always come straight home from work, get the baby, and then watched their child, alone, until he got home at 10 or later. So to the husband’s mind, he didn’t have to give anything up, the baby was covered because his wife gave up most of her social activities.

            In another couple, the father simply did not proactively do any feedings because the mother was breast feeding. Now, the mother worked, so she pumped and had milk in the fridge. All the father had to do was make a bottle, but nope, during the day time he had to be reminded or asked to get a bottle and feed the crying baby. This also meant that when the baby cried at night, the father would wake up and then WAKE UP THE MOTHER so that SHE could feed the baby, either from the breast OR the bottle, while he tried to go back to sleep. This meant neither party was getting any sleep and yet still both had to go to work in the morning. The father did say the baby “didn’t want to take the bottle” when he tried to feed them at night, but really it seemed like, based on his retelling, the child didn’t immediately take to it and the father figured “well, he just wants mom.”

            It’s frustrating because I cannot for the life of me figure out a) why these men were (and still are) very unaware of how much added work they are placing on their partners (they are generally good guys) or b) why these very successful, professional women (one matched, the other out earned her husband) just, like, accepted that “well men are like this.”

            1. blood orange*

              Just to add a “there is hope” example…

              When I had my son almost 9 years ago, there was never a question about me taking on more child duties (feeding, childcare and otherwise) than my husband. We divvied up equally when possible, and if anything my husband has nearly always taken on more because he’s a teacher and has a schedule that is easier on child care, which naturally leads to everything else. Even when I was on parental leave, we distributed everything evenly until he went back to work, at which point I probably took on more. Heck, in the several days after birth he definitely took on more because I was dang exhausted. He taught me how to do everything when I was up to it! When I returned to work after 7 weeks, he again probably took on more due to our schedules. We started out making very nearly the same, but I’ve made more for the last few years. Neither of us has ever been held back by the other, we just make adjustments when the other needs the support, when schedules change, etc. And I can assure OP’s manager that I’m no less focused on work because of my child, and certainly no more or less than my husband… what an asinine comment, even if you just consider she’s a manager who said this out loud to a direct report.

              We’re by no means perfect, but I will say what Alison says often – just present things as though *of course* that’s how they should be – probably applies here. Yes, I totally have a great spouse who has no perception that “that’s a man’s job” or “that’s a woman’s” job. BUT some of what you describe might just be reframing those husbands thinking, especially if you say they’re otherwise great guys. No, I’m not saying their behavior is their spouse’s fault (don’t come for me!); these moms might just need to change their own notions and expect more out of their spouses.

            2. jojo*

              We do not all accept that men are just like that. I divorced mine. Home work was immediately cut down to about one fourth. My son helps with his kids. I told him if he didn’t she did not need him. And he would end up divorced, like it or not

          4. Starbuck*

            But what you’re describing is exactly what a patriarchal background / society means. Maybe you’re imagining something more conservative or fundamentalist, but it also works as you’re describing it. Many women take this lack of initiative from fathers as a given, not because it’s truly inherent to who men are but because of what they have observed about how men in their lives have been raised and how they act. Could men do more? Yes, obviously! But in practice, it’s so so rare for a man to step up as the primary or equal parent when a woman is also involved.

            This is just another example of the attitude that sees combating sexism as primarily women’s work to solve and if not enough progress is made, it’s our fault. There’s no barrier that men face for stepping up as parents that is any more difficult to deal with than what women have to. Men could choose to see the problems you’ve outlined and work at solving them, but so so often they don’t! They’re just not putting in equal effort.

          5. Observer*

            “ah, but he might not even realise his wife needs to take time off when they are sick, etc. Like my husband has no idea who is minding our kids when we’re at work.”

            Good grief! I ‘m having a REALLY hard time wrapping my head around that. It’s one thing to say that men just aren’t so good with little kids, and don’t have the same touch blah, blah, blah. (I’m NOT agreeing with that sentiment, fwiw, to be clear) but it’s another to essentially say that men are oblivious and irresponsible idiots when it comes to kids. Because you don’t have to be “good with kids” to know what your childcare’s policies are, what backup care costs, and that you can’t leave a sick kid home alone! Same for knowing how many PTO days your spouse has left (if any) and how another day off is likely to hit your finances. Sheesh!

            Yes, the rest of what you say is true and important, too. But this is just a whole different level of ridiculous.

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I’d suggest that it’s still the patriarchy, since we exist in a patriarchal culture (obviously, I’m making assumptions about where the LW, you, and your friends are located). It takes a lot of time and effort to un-learn the things that we were told in our formative years about how the world works. I’m pretty feministy and still catch myself with those same kinds of thoughts that I need to interrogate.

          It’s not a dig at anyone. Just sharing thoughts about how the broader social context influences us in deep ways.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            Yeah, that’s fair. I took the whole “from some sort of patriarchial background” to imply that the boss must be from a particular conservative family or area, but yeah, it’s probably true to say we are all from a patriarchial background (at least, every culture I know of).

          2. Quinalla*

            Yes, the patriarchy affects all of us for sure and this attitude is 100% a part of it, but I agree it doesn’t mean she’s particularly supportive of patriarchal views just because she has this attitude as I too have seen it from both conversative & liberal folks. It’s so ingrained in so many people that Mom should be the caregiver, Dad is just a poor substitute/babysitter at best, etc.

            I really feel for the OP, but TBH, so many people have this unconscious bias. It’s why the pay difference goes from highest to lowest Working Dads Single MenSingle WomenWorking Moms. The difference in the gaps between is not exact, but gives you an idea of the scale where Single Men are barely edging out Single Women but the gap between Working Dads & Single Men and Single Women & Working Moms is large.

          3. Ellis Bell*

            Yeah, I think the most misogynist things I’ve ever heard said about motherhood came from a young woman, brand new to the workforce who had been raised by separated working parents who were both hands on. It wasn’t based on her experience at all, she’d just picked up a bunch of sexist shit from somewhere and just hadn’t examined it. She’d also buckled to the “not like other girls pressure” by deciding she was different.

        3. Lacey*

          Interesting. I see so much push to have the work divided more evenly and get dads involved in their kids lives that I hadn’t considered that.

          But I guess there is a certain wing that thinks this way, I just don’t encounter it very often.

          1. Caroline*

            I’ll never forget a very wonderful friend who is a high school teacher being interviewed for a really great role and the patronising headmaster asking ”so who looks after your little girl while you’re working?” and her saying, ”oh we manage” and then looking at the photo of the two little kids on his desk and saying ”as I imagine you do, right?” and smiling sweetly. Things took a turn for the frosty then and she did not get the job! Can’t have uppity feminist types!

            Still makes me angry that he got away with that.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              That reminds me of a friend who was in a discussion with a priest about some decoration in the public space of their church’s event space. Friend was asking why it was displayed since it was not good (can’t remember the specifics of the decoration, but it was something that was not consistent with normal decency … I remember being gobsmacked at them displaying it at the time she told me the story … maybe some Nazi or confederacy related thing?)

              The priest said “what does it matter? it’s just a little thing, it’s just a symbol” with a “don’t you worry your pretty little head about it” tone. She responded, well OK then, if symbols don’t really matter, why don’t you just take off your collar and the cross you’re wearing and let’s take the crucifix down from the church while you’re at it” She said he got very quiet and changed the subject, and that the offending decor was gone the next time she was there.

      3. Sloanicota*

        Mm, if she was a parent long enough ago, she may think that her children “who were raised right” never behaved like that in a grocery store, whereas these modern children are the problem. People do tend to have short, self-serving memories.

      1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

        As a childfree person… EWWWW was my first thought. Do I think parents sometimes don’t perform the same as non parents? Yes, because I’ve seen it. But there are as many parents that don’t do that, and to preemptively punish mothers especially is… grimy. I’ve worked with parents who didn’t let their status as child havers keep them from performing to standard.

        1. ADidgeridooForYou*

          Yup. I’ve also seen childfree coworkers who don’t perform the same because they just got a new puppy they’re training, or because one of their parents is in the hospital. In my view, everyone is just trying to live their lives, and there will be phases where distractions are more prevalent than others, and they might need to take priority over work from time to time. As long as they’re still making an effort, I’m not going to begrudge anyone for it.

      2. Minerva*

        Absolutely (and I apologize to anyone who feels that I mean the comment as disparaging)!

        But as others noted there child-free and ChildFree™. The “hates when moms take their kids to the grocery store and how they should be placed in daycare for that” made me wonder if she is ChildFree™ because I know my child-free friends get that you can’t just offload your kids anytime you need to go in public.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          I mean, hilariously there are probably lots of parents who would love to drop their kids at a daycare while they run errands/grocery shop! But that does not equate to the “your child should not exist at the grocery store, How Rude” that this boss is espousing. I’d be very worried that her attitude would have a negative impact on advancement potential just because of her “feelings” that LW isn’t dedicated enough.

          1. Caroline*

            If any such wondrous place opens, ideally free or cheap, count me in!! I despise taking my kids to get groceries.

          2. ADidgeridooForYou*

            Lol exactly. I see a lot of parents in airports desperately trying to contain their freaking out children and keep them calm, and they honestly don’t look any less miserable than the people around them.

    5. Veryanon*

      Unfortunately I think sometimes women are our own worst enemies. I had a female manager when my first child was born and this was definitely her attitude (and she worked in HR!!!). I’m sadly not surprised by this letter.

      1. Abogado Avocado*

        It does not matter why this manager feels this way. It doesn’t matter if she has managed 100 women previously and they couldn’t “fully commit to being an employee” (whatever that means). It doesn’t matter if the manager hasn’t had that experience. Or if she’s childless. All that matters here is that the manager is treating the writer differently because she is a mother, which is gender-based discrimination and illegal.

    6. OhGee*

      I assume she doesn’t have kids. I’m a childless by choice woman who is the manager of a woman who is about to have her second child, and this manager disgusts me. Even if she can’t stand kids (which is certainly how she came off with that comment about the supermarket), it’s stunningly tactless to say that kind of thing aloud (and to be clear, I completely disagree with her, she’s being gross).

    7. tamarack etc.*

      Pull-up-the-ladder attitude. I had to suffer – children weren’t an option for me – the reason women are lagging behind men is because they’re distracted by caring and childcare duties … this sort of misguided internalized misogyny. On the other hand a man who shows off his kid is great!

  2. afiendishthingy*

    Wow! I’m always amazed by managers who openly tell you they’re judging you based on your membership in a protected group. I hope your company is smart and takes care of it.

    1. Double A*

      Yes! Doesn’t this actually meet the definition of a hostile work environment? These sentiments might need to be repeated more than once to count, but these are such intense opinions that it seems unlikely 1) that she won’t repeat them and 2) that she can possibly manage you fairly.

      1. Sal*

        The language usually used in the US courts is “severe or pervasive”–honestly, not sure that this would qualify. (Although this is not my area of law.) Stand-alone “severe” claims tend to be on the “someone used an extremely offensive slur” side of things (not a regular slur, usually has to be the worst one you can think of for a particular group), not “someone said something incredibly hostile and judgmental” side. “Pervasive” usually requires repeated occurrences, multiple actors, management ignoring things, etc. etc.

        Now, the COMPANY should absolutely want to nip this in the bud because of the exposure to potential liability, but whether LW actually already has a claim is a different q.

        1. Double A*

          This makes sense! That seems why it’s definitely HR territory at this point — it’s discriminatory and if it becomes pervasive, it could create a hostile situation which then lawyers could get involved in. Right now it’s in HR’s purview.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s actually only in regard to housing, not employment! Having kids isn’t a protected status federally for employment (although it is in some states).

    2. Artemesia*

      No kidding. And the grocery store thing? This is a woman who just literally hates kids and wants them never seen or heard. As a working Mom I loved taking my kids to the grocery store — it is a great time to interact with a toddler who has been in day care all day – to teach him things — words, nutrition, how to make good choices. It is fun to shop with a toddler in the little seat in the cart. Just as commuting to day care and school drop offs is a great time to interact with older kids in a contained environment that invites their sharing things about their day. This manager is bananacrackers. And a real threat to women in the workplace. I’d probably talk to HR about this if I felt they could be confidential.

  3. Ho-ho-holey hose*

    Oh, I really feel for you because raising stuff like this can be very scary and intimidating! Are there other managers or senior people at the organization you have a good relationship with who you could perhaps talk to you about this informally at first, to help you raise it more formally? If you know John well, it might also be worth asking him directly if he had got any comments like you have – he might be willing to go to bat for you and help demonstrate how your boss is treating women differently.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, one reason this sucks is because parents, like all employees, occasionally require flexibility and trust from their employers, and this boss has but LW on note that she’s not going to receive any grace now.

    2. cleo*

      This is a really good suggestion. Especially since it sounds like LW has worked on other teams or other departments for this company and could reach out to former managers or mentors for informal support.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      This is a great point. From the letter, it sounds like this manager is an aberration, not a reflection of the company’s general approach to stuff like this. Since the LW says she’s been at the company about 10 years, I’m guessing she knows some people who could give good advice / help remedy this situation.

  4. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

    LW, I am *FURIOUS* on your behalf. Alison is right; escalate this to her boss, to HR. Frankly, I’d be telling everyone I knew (especially the chatterboxes in my org) what she said. It sounds like you org is overall super committed to work-life balance and supporting parents, and your manager is an aberration who needs to have some sense (verbally) slapped into her.

    I’m a new mother, and my boss (who started while I was on leave) on my first day back was so concerned for me: ‘Your office door locks, and your windows have blinds; is that enough privacy for pumping? Do you need another office? Make sure it’s on your calendar as ‘busy’ so no one schedules meetings or bothers you. If anyone tries to schedule you or interrupt you, tell me right away; don’t go to their boss, come to me*. Let me know if you need a small fridge for your office or if you’re OK using the main fridge.’

    Then HIS boss, our org’s CEO, whom I reported to before I had this boss, said almost all the same things.

    *My boss is the second-in-command for my whole org. If he comes to another director to complain about someone’s behavior, it’s minimum two levels above that person, more like 3-4.

    1. Properlike*

      I love that they’re men saying this. SEE? Men are completely capable of not only being aware of the physical and psychological needs of a nursing parent, but open and supportive of them as well! Talk about using your privilege for good!

      I bet the LW’s manager thinks that the man on her team is “doing his wife a favor” when he “babysits” his daughter. My husband always got really upset at people (always women) who used that language with him.

      1. higheredadmin*

        Repeat after me: you cannot babysit your own kids. Taking care of kids you have parental responsibility for is just the thing you should be doing.

    2. Random Dice*

      Aww I’m so glad for you!

      My friend – the only woman on a team of men who all had SAHM wives at home – had to go to her manager and ask for the key to the little closet to pump, every single time. Another had to pump in a toilet stall.

      It makes me happy that there are places that are so supportive.

    3. Amy*

      I’m a new mom, and I’d be freaked out by that. It seems wayyyyy over the top. Why do they automatically assume you’re pumping? Why not just ask how everything’s going and let you know they’ll support whatever time you need as you transition back….

  5. CatCat*

    I’d low key start looking for a new job as well while pursuing internal processes as a hedge in case it all blows up. It would be illegal for them to retaliate against you for reporting, but, well, that doesn’t help you pay the bills while seeking legal redress.

    1. KatEnigma*

      Or even before/while reporting it.

      Right before our son was born, the company my husband worked for started 4 weeks of paid leave for mothers and fathers.

      His boss commented that “no man in his right mind would take paternity leave”

      When he came back from paternity leave, he found that all he was left with was grunt work, and his high profile responsibilities had been given to someone with much less experience (and no kids) and none of them came back as projects ended and new ones were assigned.

      So when he was up in the middle of the night with the baby, he started looking for an applying to jobs.

      1. kristinyc*

        Wouldn’t that go against FMLA? They have to be able to come back to their job or equivalent…

        1. KatEnigma*

          1) It wasn’t FMLA.

          2) They didn’t change his title/position/money. The kind of thing like “high profile vs not” is all subjective and hard to prove.

          1. KatEnigma*

            Also, once you’ve filed on your employer with the labor board/sued them, you need to move on anyway.

          2. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

            But paternity leave qualifies for FMLA. All FMLA is that it guarantees that your job is safe when you come back from leave (whether thats for yourself or parental leave). Not a lawyer but I think the job has to be at the same level. So if he was doing higher profile things and then gave him lower profile things, even if it was same title that would be agains FMLA.

            It’s probably a moot point now, but for anyone who is ever in a similar situation, please contact a lawyer or have someone look into it.

            1. KatEnigma*

              No. They were very clear that it was in addition to FMLA, not part of it.

              Since you’re not a lawyer, how about you stop assuming that people who are in the scenario don’t know what they are talking about. It’s very demeaning.

            2. Random Dice*

              “Guaranteed” is a bit strong. I knew a woman who was laid off on maternity leave. I hadn’t realized that was legal.

        2. DataSci*

          In addition to what KatEnigma points out, FMLA is very limited – it only applies to companies with 50 or more employees, and only to employees who have been there for at least a year. So there are large numbers of people who are unprotected.

      2. laser99*

        What a crappy thing to do. I’m sure it came back to to bite them—they lost an employee, and guaranteed all the remaining employees would be on edge.

      3. Magc*

        Same — my husband actually was pushed down a rank (from lead to member of the team) after taking his full paternity leave.

        His boss at the time was completely baffled by the notion that people wanted to go home for more than meals, sleeping, and showering. Anyone reporting to him who had a child was subject to being managed down / out unless capable of proving that they were going to work as hard and at least as long hours as before becoming a parent.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Your reference to the boss only allowing people to eat and shower at home made me laugh. Yeah this sort of person hates employees having any sort of life that might interfere with the work.

        2. I have RBF*

          Wow. That type of thing is definitely a resume generating event. OTOH, when I’ve ended up with a boss who thinks I should live to work, I start looking for a way out anyway. While I love my career, I am not into burnout as a lifestyle choice. I work to live.

    2. Snow Globe*

      Even best case scenario, HR responds appropriately, the manager accepts the feedback, knows never to say anything like that again and doesn’t retaliate…you are still working for a boss that *thinks* you can’t be fully committed to your job because you are a working mother. And your work performance will be viewed the that lens.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Definitely worth considering whether an internal transfer is an option. Sounds like in this particular situation, LW’s organization is generally good about giving people flexibility when needed.

  6. OhNoYouDidn't*

    I have no words. I hope HR comes down on her hard. So sorry you’re feeling this stress.

  7. Humanitarian*

    Ah, yes, to be reduced to one’s reproductive capabilities, and by another woman, at that.

    Escalate with pride and joy, OP. Take sincere pleasure in doing so.

    1. Pants*

      Misogyny plain and simple. So gross.

      Escalate and maybe lowkey check out lawyers if this isn’t a place that takes things seriously.

      1. KatEnigma*

        Also misandry, that men can’t properly look after kids! And that they don’t think about their kids while working.

        1. Morning Flowers*

          AMEN. This, I find, is the argument that most often gets through my old-fashioned mother’s thick skull about sexism — “hey, you’re being really sexist towards [my dear older brother, her firstborn, her PRECIOUS BABY BOY WHO CAN DO NO WRONG] *by* being sexist towards me right now.” And said brother will be standing right there next to me nodding his head, because low expectations and coddling *hurt men.* And there is nothing I’ve found to be more effective to get people like my mother to understand the harm of sexism *viscerally* than pointing out when it hurts men.

          Because hurting *women,* well, that’s, like, normal I guess? Because these people are sexist, so women are like stronger and maybe cool with being mistreated all the time? But talk about that, Mom’s like, that doesn’t track with my experience of being a woman (even though it does, Mom is tremendously bad at knowing what her feelings are and will admit this when called on it…). Talk about *her baby boy*? OH, maybe sexism is important now!

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I hear the evil Star Wars Emperor…”the misogyny is strong in this one.”

    2. Sedna*

      Yup. I am a cis woman without kids and I have no doubt this same boss would be judging me on some level for not “fulfilling my biological duties” and/or for being chronically ill. Report the hell out of this, OP, this is terrible. And if HR doesn’t treat this like the horrorshow it is, please be prepared to move to an employer that will treat you like a human being.

  8. Peanut Hamper*

    “…which would be gender-based discrimination.”

    Do NOT leave this part out when you escalate this! Sometimes management and HR need to have this waved in front of their noses repeatedly before they realize how serious this is. Otherwise they are liable to just pass this off as a personality conflict that they don’t want to deal with. (This may not apply to the management at LW’s company, but I’ve seen it apply at lots of other organizations.)

    1. irene adler*

      It is certainly an easy out if the HR folks are prone to avoiding their responsibilities.

  9. ecnaseener*


    If you trust the father on your team, you could discreetly ask him if the boss has said anything to him about doubting he can commit to employment as a father – just so you can say to HR there’s a clear gender difference here. But the “dads are different” comment probably covers that adequately.

    1. Properlike*

      I’m curious if the dad on the team has had any weird conversations with her, though. Or if he will once he’s back at work and expecting to be able to have flexible time to continue parenting? It won’t be the same, but the different expectations from the manager would likely be clear.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        This is a very valid point because I bet she made some comment being reductive or condescending to the father on the team, but differently. I suspect *small* acts of fatherhood are praised by the manager, but any actual co-parenting that prevents the father from “committing” to the job is likely met with some level of “Sure, John says he has to watch his kid, but his wife must be doing most of the work. So is John slacking or is John’s wife terrible (and can’t John keep his woman in line?!)?”

    2. cmcinnyc*

      Yes, if OP has a good rapport with this colleague, it’s a great idea to talk to him. Sad as it is, having a man back you up on parenting discrimination is sometimes the push HR needs. If a man says it, it’s objective, according to oh so many out there.

      We really didn’t get decent parental leave where I work until the male then-CFO had kids.

  10. sagewhiz*

    This is ridiculous. You’ve been there 10 years! That’s capitol to spend—escalate this. Another thought: are there other mothers on your team? If so, check in with them to see if she’s made such outrageous statements to them as well.

    1. k bee*

      Yes, thank you for pointing this out! LW says the manager has history with the org, but so does she! 10 years is nothing to downplay; its an impressive tenure and should come with its own trusted reputation.

    2. Polly Hedron*

      are there other mothers on your team?

      No, OP said above that she is the only mother on the team.

  11. Just Another Zebra*

    You say she’s been there for years, but OP, you’ve been there a decade! This means you have a proven track record as a reliable, hard-working employee. Say something, please. It’s worth reporting, and escalating if you do not get the result that is warranted.

    This is the hill to stand on.

  12. Elle*

    There is so much about this that is infuriating. The “men can forget about their children and focus on work but women can’t” is… so insulting to everyone involved. OP, I have nothing for you that Alison did not already say but I just wanted to offer more backup that what your manager said is egregiously bad and needs to be escalated. I hope this ends with you being managed by someone else- the grocery store rant (what! the! f%$&!) makes me think this is a deep issue for her that isn’t going to magically disappear after a conversation with HR.

    1. Onward*

      “The “men can forget about their children and focus on work but women can’t” is… so insulting to everyone involved.”

      YES! It’s seriously insulting to everyone. It’s saying that fathers cannot be as good of parents as mothers, AND it’s saying that mothers are (by virtue of being mothers) not good at their job.

      1. Miette*

        Seriously. Looks like your boss’s internalized misogyny just went external and it’s pointed straight at you, OP.

    2. Lizy*

      Right??? I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring my 2 1/2 year old while I’m working…

  13. liquidus*

    “She then went on some weird rant about how she hates when moms take their kids to the grocery store and how they should be placed in daycare for that as well ”

    This reminds me of a person who worked for the same company as me who disliked when parents brought kids to cafes because in his opinion, cafes were for quiet study/work.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I dislike when people bring laptops to cafes to camp out at a four top for hours as a solo person, personally.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Oh, I just share those tables (while I’m buying something every 45-60 minutes). I don’t even ask; I smile and say, Great, I’m working too, we can share.

        (No, wait, sorry. I did all that in the Before Times. These days I’m making my own coffee and sitting alone at my own table.)

    2. Onward*

      That comment grated at me too. Children are allowed to exist in public spaces. They do not (and should not) be cloistered away in their homes until they reach an “acceptable” age for the a$$holes in the population.

      That said for any responses – yes, parents should teach their children how to behave in public; however, part of that teaching involves being out in public and children being children. We were all there once. Adults need to understand that children are still learning how to live in a freaking society. It’s not a ‘one stern conversation and done’ kind of thing.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, I was thinking even apart from the cost of daycare (which is a major concern), there’s also the fact that children have as much right to be in the grocery store as she does. And while kids may not be too anxious to go to the grocery store, the family may be doing other shopping while in town that they may want to take part in or may be needed for (trying on new clothes, for example) and as you say, children need to experience public places. Is she suggesting no child should enter a grocery store until they are 18? 13? Old enough to go shopping by themselves?

        1. Proofin' Amy*

          And this is exactly how kids LEARN how to grocery shop! Where to find things, how to stack them in the basket so that fragile stuff doesn’t get crushed and perishable and frozen stuff doesn’t stay in your basket for too long a time before you check out, and so on. I have vivid memories of going shopping with my mom as a preschooler, and that’s indeed how I started learning. It seems weird that you would have to learn these things, but I think we’ve all seen people who just have no clue how to shop.

          1. Veryanon*

            Yep – I was my mom’s “designated runner” starting at about 7 or 8. She’d tell me to go find some specific item, and I’d have to figure out what aisle it was in and then where in the store it was. Of course this was back in the days where you could still let little kids roam around a store by themselves and not worry about it. I used to love shopping with my mom, she’d always let me pick out a candy bar on the way home. I’d usually get a Milky Way or a KitKat and she’d have a York Peppermint Pattie. Good times.

            1. My Cabbages!*

              The only reason I would be worried about letting my kid run around by herself at the grocery store would be busybodies calling CPS about an “abandoned child”. Society is no more dangerous to children now than it has been in the past.

          2. coffee*

            I remember the excitement of getting to pay (hand over cash! get the change back!) and having a roster of who got to push the trolley.

        2. MeepMeep123*

          Yeah, this is age discrimination. Children are people. People have the right to access public spaces. Period, full stop. Some public spaces may be age-limited for very good reasons (i.e. bars), but it is discriminatory to lock an entire segment of the population out of every single public space because someone might see them and get offended.

          A lot of people in the US appear to think of children as very demanding pets. They’re not. They’re people. It’s just as disgusting to say that children don’t belong in grocery stores as to say that Black people don’t belong in grocery stores.

          1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            Generally, I think we all understand there will be children (in various states of behaved and misbehaved) at places like a grocery store or post office or doctors office. But for the other public spaces (museums, movies) I think the key is for adults (both those with and without kids) to use curtesy and common sense when it comes to public spaces.

            Don’t go to a Disney movie on a Saturday afternoon and be annoyed that there are children there and act like a jerk — you are at a family movie on a day kids don’t have school and parents don’t have work. You are an adult, you can wait and see “Encanto” until it’s on Disney+ or go at a time when it is likely to be less crowded.

            Don’t take your baby to an R rated movie at midnight and be shocked that people are annoyed when your baby cries and you decide to continue watching the movie — movies are not like grocery stores. You absolutely need food for yourself and your kids, but you can wait and see “Zombie Murder Kill 3” when it comes out to rent on Amazon.

            And in between those extremes, I think most people can use good judgement. But there will always be the one person at the opening weekend of a Marvel movie complaining that there are 7 year olds there having the audacity to audibly say “WOW!” when the hero shows up.

      2. Annie*

        A lot of adults are learning how to live in a freaking society, so this shouldn’t be difficult for us to grasp!

        1. Random Dice*

          Oh lordy yes, especially after the pandemic. We should are a bunch of spooked wildebeest trampling all over the rosebushes.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        As teachers, we always bemoan it when children have a paucity of life experiences because this affects everything they can possibly understand in school. I’m used to explaining the countryside to urban children etc. I don’t want to have to flipping explain what a supermarket is too. Who are these “keep children in a box they’ll be totally fine” robots?

      1. BubbleTea*

        I was once trying to study in a library and had to give up because a brass band was playing the music for a fashion show in the atrium. This person clearly wants cafes to be even more library-like than actual libraries!

        1. Myrin*

          I’m sorry but for some reason and despite the serious topic in general, the image of you trying to study while a freaking brass band is having a blast downstairs is completely hysterical to me.

      2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        Only the stodgiest of Libraries insist on silence these days. And yes, The Concerned And Irritable Cohorts complain about that to us regularly.

        1. Essess*

          But the core function of a library is to read and study… which are negatively impacted by music and yelling. I have to say I’m on team Stodgy on this one.

          1. DoodleBug*

            I’d say this is still true of academic libraries. (The core function being to read and study).

            Public libraries, not so much. Now their core function is about access to information – books, computers, community education and other group programs, assistance from librarians, etc. Much less quiet.

          2. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

            School libraries yes, but not public libraries. Have you been to a public library recently? there are arts and crafts (for both kids and adults), book clubs, community events, family events, story times, etc.

            Now most libraries will have study areas so that if you do want/need a quieter place you can use those rooms. But if you are going to walk into a public library and expect near silence you’re going to need a time machine.

          3. I have RBF*

            Me too. Yes, certain areas might have more noise, but when you are at a table near the stacks, sshhhhh! (My grandmother was a reference librarian, and she made sure that my sibling and I learned how to Behave in libraries.)

          4. yala*

            I feel like the core function of a public library is to make a wide range of materials, be they educational or entertaining, including space in which to use/study said materials, available to the public at no cost.

      3. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

        Honestly, the idea that libraries should be silent is pretty out-dated at this point. Back when I worked as a nanny/babysitter, I took kids in my care to the library all the time (as did lots of other caregivers in my neighborhood). While I absolutely worked on teaching them to use “library voices,” it takes small kids a long time to learn that skill and the babble of happy toddler voices is just a Thing You Get with Libraries.

        1. Dahlia*

          When I worked at the library, I’d sometimes give the kids instruments and have them be as loud as they could. Libraries are community spaces, not just study spaces!

    3. Gracely*

      This idea that kids can’t just be in public breaks my brain. Like, I don’t have kids, don’t want kids, am even sometimes annoyed by kids in public, but jeez, they’re people, too. They have every right to be in public spaces with their parents.

      1. MeepMeep123*

        Yup. I mean, there are people with disabilities that cause uncontrollable movements or noises; should we ban those people from public spaces too?

        1. pandop*

          There are definitely people who think so. A cafe on the sea front in my home town did indeed ask my Uncle’s (who had learning disabilities) carers not to take him/other residents in his bungalow there, because it ‘upset the other customers’

    4. JSPA*

      Yep. “I want a dedicated adults-only coworking space for the price of an americano.”

      Sounds like his parents never taught him the difference between “reasonable goals that come out of your mouth” and “selfish desires that should stay back between your ears.”

      Same for the boss; she’s allowed to feel doubt in the recesses of her private mind, but once the doubts come out of her mouth, she is ALREADY treating moms differently than dads.

    5. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      Well, yeah. Cafes tend to develop personalities, and SOME of them tend to be quiet places, while OTHERS tend to be lively places. Annoyed by children and people who talk? Go find a different cafe, bub.

  14. EPLawyer*

    Just ugh. Because OF COURSE if dad is watching the kid he is only “babysitting” and Mom will be there for the “real” care.

    Can I just say how much I hate it when someone — usually dads — call it babysitting when caring for their own kids? Not saying this is what LW’s husband does but that is manager’s attitude and I’ve actually witnessed it coming out dad’s mouth.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Same! If it’s your own kid, it’s parenting!

      I’m in my 50s, and this is weirdly new phrasing. I don’t remember any fathers calling it “babysitting” to care for their own child until about 10-15 years ago.

      1. Random Bystander*

        It’s been around a bit longer than that (not any less wrong)–it was an issue back when my oldest was an infant/toddler and he’s 29 years old now.

        1. Not Australian*

          People used it when mine was a baby, and he’s just turned 45! It’s a very old-fashioned attitude and I would think it’s been around forever…

      2. Ridley*

        In my experience it’s not the fathers calling it babysitting, it’s people who see fathers out with their children in public and feel the need to congratulate them on being so involved.

        1. Properlike*

          Even though I say in a thread above that it’s women congratulating men in public, I have to agree with EPLawyer that there are some men who do use the term “babysitting” in relation to themselves. No surprise, these are usually also the guys who play up the “I can’t do it as well as the mom so I’m not gonna try” incompetence.

    2. Adrian*

      I know a dad who actually claimed that his taking the kids for an occasional weekend should count as child support.

      His wife had separated from him because of DV, they’d never been financially stable to start with, and he wanted the status of a father but not the responsibilities of parenting.

  15. Moonlight*

    Omg this is truly awful and kind of my worst nightmare (being a 30-something woman who wants to have kids and has already experienced discrimination because of an employers mere thought of possibility I might have the kid I eventually plan to have).

    I am so sorry you have experienced this and I totally agree that you should escalate it to HR. Your boss should not be making these comments and it’s so troubling that she thinks these things because they’re so out of line. Thinking your husband can’t care for your child while your working? Yikes! Thinking women shouldn’t even bring a child to a grocery store? Also yikes; barring the fact that getting a babysitter or putting your kid in day care is unaffordable, lets say you could have your hubby take care of your kid while you shop, why should you have to do t that? I know loads of moms who would prefer* to buy groceries alone but it’s just so wildly unrealistic to make that an expectation versus personal preference. SO MUCH YIKES!

    I hope that getting this on record will help protect you and also stop her from worsening her behaviour

    1. Just a Clarifier*

      As a fellow 30 something woman who is terrified of having a child for fear of career retribution, I’m with you here. This is like the worst nightmare scenario. Manager has big “Pick Me” energy here. I hope LW reports her and we get a fantastic, positive update that the HR handles it well.

    2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      Man, I know some parents of young children who haven’t been able to use the bathroom alone for half a decade, let alone go to the grocery store!

  16. AnonAnon*

    Totally report it even though it seems like a scary thing to do.
    I had a situation at work regarding harassment and wasn’t sure if it warranted reporting and I was afraid of being stalked/retaliated, etc. by the person. Turns out I was not the first report and because I had documented evidence, that person was walked out the door that day.
    My company was VERY supportive, and I had security in my corner too in case something happened.

  17. Emily*

    LW, your manager is a loon. Please report her. It definitely seems like she is discriminating against you. (She doesn’t like seeing children in grocery stores, WTF?)

    1. Lacey*

      I have two friends who have said similar things to me. They think parents should just a get baby-sitter every time, which is obviously absurd to anyone who even knows someone with kids. But they don’t.

      1. mreasy*

        It’s wild to me that anyone would think that? Like, I don’t have kids and don’t particularly like them but I also…life in reality? (Also let’s be real adults are the issue at grocery stores usually! lol)

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, I worked in a grocery store for a year. Honestly, the kids made it more enjoyable. Yeah, there were a handful of occasions when a kid was annoying – one in particular stands out in my mind – but there were a good deal more when adults were a problem (and even that didn’t happen that often).

          1. Random Dice*

            My hairdresser works at a grocery store. She was talking about all the passive-aggressive things customers did when they saw the mask requirement (again).

            My favorites were gym socks run strategically across just the nose, and a pair of tidy whities (underwear) pulled over the face.

            Adults are the problems, usually.

        2. Lacey*

          Yeah, I don’t have kids. I enjoy them, some of them, but I’m pretty easily annoyed by the amount of noise young kids make or the tantrums.

          But also, I get that parents still have to get groceries even if their kid is throwing a fit because their banana was cut wrong 5 hours ago.

          I also agree, often the adults responding to the behavior is even louder and more annoying than the kids themselves.

        3. ADidgeridooForYou*

          Right? The vast majority of people berating staff or leaving their unwanted food in a random aisle because they’re too lazy to put it back are adults, not children.

        4. pandop*

          I like going to the supermarket less than I like kids (I like my friends’ kids, but I like my shopping delivered more)

          I remember a time when I did have to shop in person, and encountered screaming kids on occasion, tbh what was going through my head was ‘same, kid, same’

      2. Student*

        They may have grown up with very different standards and expectations around baby-sitting than what’s modernly acceptable. I’m mid-thirties.

        Back in the “old times”, at least in the area I grew up, any girl between the ages of like 8 to 18 was considered an eligible baby-sitter for any child that was equal to her age or younger (provided a baby was weaned – really small babies only got baby-sat by older girls or other adults). It wasn’t unusual to leave a child in the care of another child for a prolonged period, including overnight.

        My parents often offered for me to babysit for other people, often without consulting me, sometimes even pro-bono “for the experience” or because they felt it was “good for me” or “as a favor to a family friend”.

        Also back in the “old times”, it was hard for girls in the age range of ~14-18 to get other jobs, due to the economy at the time, and sometimes due to very open and accepted sexism as well. They’d often accept rates that are much lower than normal baby-sitting rates right now, even with inflation factored in, and well below the minimum wage of the time. So, baby-sitting was more popular with young women back then than I expect it is now, as the alternative options were much more limited.

        1. Observer*

          Back in the “old times”, at least in the area I grew up, any girl between the ages of like 8 to 18 was considered an eligible baby-sitter for any child that was equal to her age or younger (provided a baby was weaned – really small babies only got baby-sat by older girls or other adults). It wasn’t unusual to leave a child in the care of another child for a prolonged period, including overnight.

          None of which is relevant, though. Because most of the parents taking their kids to the grocery are doing that during school hours – when these young baby sitters would not have been available.

    2. SemiAnon for unpopular brain gremlins*

      The problem isn’t her preference; it’s her entitlement and her putting that preference onto others.

      I also pretty actively don’t like being around kids under a certain age. However, I’m clear that is a “me” thing.

      Now…I don’t feel I should have to consider myself a loon for that reaction, just as someone with misophonia or allergies or fear of clowns or any other “thing that can make life awkward” should have to deplore their own brain.

      But if I expected others to cater to me, rather than (say) turning on my heel and going down another aisle (as I would equally do, if I found myself unexpectedly surrounded by scented candles) then that would be displacing my issues onto someone else. Then I’d merit plenty of WTF.

  18. Intentionally child free- supportive of parents at work*

    Sounds like where she is saying “fully commit” she should have said “lack reasonable boundaries and be unhealthily obsessed with their job”.

    Many working mothers are are far better at enforcing their work/life balance and that’s the manager’s real problem here. That and intolerance of children.

  19. Lacey*

    This is absolutely not ok and clearly is going to affect how she perceives your ability to do your job. Take Alison’s advice and then come back with a, hopefully positive, update!

  20. ElizabethJane*

    I just had to participate in a work call with several members of my company’s c-suite while holding a toddler because she has pink eye so she’s home today.

    Our CEO played peek-a-boo with her before sharing his own stories of working with sick young kids. It was fine. Everyone was fine.

    Your new boss is misogynistic to a fault and it’s not ok.

    1. dorothy zbornak*

      that’s pretty cute that he played peek-a-boo with her! hope her pink eye gets better quickly.

    2. Lizy*

      THIS IS AWESOME. And incredibly pathetic at how awesome it is, because this should be 100% totally normal.

    3. Observer*

      Your new boss is misogynistic to a fault and it’s not ok.

      Is there any level of misogyny that is NOT “to a fault”. It looks like you mashed up the beginning of sentence with the end of another one. But agreed, not OK in the least bit.

  21. nm*

    Was it Carolyn Hax, or some other popular colmnist, who said sometimes the only possible response is “Wow.”

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I’ve seen it on Captain Awkward before but do not know the origin of the response.

  22. Your Computer Guy*

    As a mother of small children I also wish I could go to the grocery store without them. I’m so fast alone! I get what’s on the list and that’s it! No one cries!
    But that’s just not feasible most of the time, there’s no drop-in daycare for errands. Really, there’s no drop-in daycare for anything anymore.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      As a childless single, I enjoy seeing little ones at the grocery. If I am close enough, I might praise their behavior to the parent. Just last night I saw a father with 2 little girls hanging off the cart. I didn’t notice any bad behavior, just a family. (There may have been a little one in the cart, but it was too far away and too dark to tell for certain.)

      1. Lizy*

        My husband is the primary shopper in our house. He’s been taking the kids shopping with him for years, and thinks it’s hilarious that he gets all the “looks” from the little old ladies and Mennonite ladies. I think it’s hilarious that he gets “looks” at all now (jk – he’s still got it with me lolol), but if it means I don’t have to go shopping, I really don’t care who looks

      2. Em*

        Same! I like keeping myself occupied in long queues by playing peekaboo with toddlers and making silly faces with kindergarteners. Even the cranky ones are doing their best.

    2. AthenaC*

      And honestly? Unless there’s neuro-spicy issues, it’s good for the kids to go on errands, get a change of scenery, and start to see the ordinary, administrative tasks of Being Human.

      1. Properlike*

        I love “neurospicy” and I’m going to use it going forward. Also great to use the Scoville Scale for description. “She’s jalepeno at school but habanero at home.”

        1. AthenaC*

          Glad you like “neurospicy” – I stole it from one of the other commenters here because it was so perfect.

      2. The OG Sleepless*

        I loved taking mine to the grocery store when they were little! So much to show them and talk about. And maybe a sprint down the freezer aisle if nobody was looking. :-) They’re in college now and we genuinely love spending time together.

      3. rusty*

        Seriously – how are humans supposed to learn how to human if you don’t let them try it out?

      4. Biology Dropout*

        Even if they are neuro-spicy! I am and my kids both are, and I’m just careful about timing errands for less busy/overwhelming times and not stacking up more than two errands in a row. My kids are great grocery helpers and cooks and 1. We still need food and 2. They still need to learn how to go to the grocery store, meal plan, etc!!

    3. Double A*

      One of the only things I miss about the pandemic is that grocery store time was Me Time haha. Now I always take my daughter because we go after her dance class on Saturdays. And for many working families the weekends are the only days for both errands and family time so obviously you have to combine them?

      But most people really are lovely about children. My daughter gets compliments all the time and many people do seem to enjoy seeing her.

    4. Some words*

      Crying children at the grocery store are a mixed blessing to me. While it’s not the most pleasant sound it does motivate my spouse to curb his usual leisurely browse down every aisle.

      This manager is off the rails. Reporting is the correct response, and get away from her reporting structure. Even if she stops saying it out loud, chances are she’ll continue to discriminate against working moms.

  23. MurpMaureep*

    LW, also document what happened this in anticipation of your meeting with higher ups/HR. While it’s still your perspective of the conversation, it helps to have it laid out when discussing the issue and also gives you something to physically give to HR so they can’t try to brush it off as “that’s how she is” and “we’ll talk to her”. You and they will have a record of you sending a document with your account of the conversation. Then after you talk, follow via email reiterating your concerns and promised action. People sometimes don’t realize that creating their own paper trail is legitimate and powerful.

    Good luck. As others have said, this is a big deal and should be escalated. Your immediate superior, the person responsible for your work assignments, career advancement, pay, overall opportunities, and (potentially) reputation in the company just told you she doesn’t think you can do your job because you have a child. She also expressed really weird views about children occupying space in public! That’s horrifying.

  24. kristinyc*

    Also, the daycare comment – daycare is typically only during business hours to cover childcare while parents work. Is she suggesting you do your grocery shopping during business hours?

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Exactly — I don’t know where she thinks these daycare businesses are that you drop your kid on a whim for a couple hours and go shopping.

    2. Critical Rolls*

      Yeah, where is this magical 24/7 daycare I can just drop my kid at whenever and they’re cool with it and the kid is cool with it?

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      Years ago, our local Fred Meyer (Kroger) had a kids area with a person to watch them. Parents could drop their kids off and then shop. I don’t know if they charged or not.

      1. My Cabbages!*

        They did not!

        When my daughter was a toddler my husband and I used to go to Fred Meyer and not even shop… we’d sit at the coffee shop and just have a little time to ourselves. Kid loved it.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      My mind is still blown that she’s supposed to pay for daycare while her husband is off work because of a stereotype of him being useless. Paying for more childcare on top of that to go shopping….. (or can men be trusted with the grocery shopping?!) The financial penalty she’s putting on her to do her job is gasp inducing.

  25. Madame X*

    Everything that your boss said about working mothers is terrible. What amazes me most is that she said this out loud to you. Definitely escalate this to HR or upper management. There is no way that her negative opinion of working mothers is not influencing how she evaluates and treats her direct reports.

  26. Fully Committed?*

    Look, semantically nobody should be fully committed to their job. You do the work, you do it well and on time, and you go home and live your life.

    Moms can do this, dads can do this, people without children can do this.

    Saying what was said out loud seems like something to escalate, because just imagine that’s the tip of the iceberg and what she filtered out saying that she actually thinks of working moms.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      That was my thought; mothers are a subset of a larger group that “cannot fully commit to their jobs” called humans.

      Some of the most dedicated peers I’ve had have been parents of young children, but I guess LW’s boss’ ignorance has no room for them, either.

  27. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    Was this recorded on a Zoom meeting? (I hope!) Take notes, document everything and consult an employment lawyer. Please.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Last line of the letter:

      this conversation also happened over Zoom so there’s no record of it.

      1. Double A*

        Notes that you type up summarizing the conversation also count as a record! A conversation doesn’t have to be recorded to be considered by HR.

  28. analyst*

    I really hope for OP’s sake that this was said in writing because otherwise it’s her word vs her managers….in my experience, HR won’t do anything without proof.

    1. MurpMaureep*

      Good HR will ask you to document the conversation yourself and share it with them. I’ve definitely had interactions with others at work that were entirely verbal but had HR implications (disruptive employees, bigoted speech) and I reported them and sent documentation of what was said to HR. Many bad actors rely on others not reporting verbal conversation because “there’s no proof” but a competent* HR department will absolutely work around that.

      *even if you cynically define “competent” as “protecting the business”, they don’t want someone out there saying this stuff.

    2. Marz*

      In my experience, they don’t really ask for proof – only (?) two, but they asked a lot of questions, about what they said/did, and what I said/did. I mean, they were doing an investigation, so they asked other people, as well, if I said someone else was there or they asked me about a few things other people said, so sometimes there is independent verification, but they never questioned any of the things I said I heard. I’m sure/know that both these people got reported for other things in the past, so I’m not saying for sure they’ll do anything/do a full scale investigation but still- If you report it and they won’t do anything for lack of proof, than you know you gotta get out of there, unfortunately – but definitely remember, OP, that’s on them, they are trying to get out of doing their job, it doesn’t mean your report wasn’t valid without proof or anything else like that.

    3. laser99*

      I think she stated it was during a Zoom meeting. But I’m guessing someone this loony wouldn’t be believed, even if she denied it.

  29. Amy*

    Ugh, letter writer, I feel for you. I had to integrate back into the workforce after taking time off to be a stay-at-home-parent for several years. When I had to account for the gap on my resume, I quickly learned to say that, “I took time off to care for family” instead of mentioning I had kids. Otherwise I got an interrogation regarding my ability to successfully parent if I wasn’t at home with my kids, who would be handling childcare, etc. Infuriating.

  30. SereneScientist*

    Man, this is absolutely wild. This person’s manager reminds me of a LW from a while back who was irrationally biased against folks who’d gone to women’s colleges for school. Based only on stereotypes and internalized prejudices.

    1. Onward*

      I was reminded of that letter too. I think that other women often believe that when THEY hold these kinds of opinions it can’t be misogynistic since they’re also women but… that’s totally not how misogyny works.

  31. Hi, I’m Troy McClure*

    Your boss is behaving unacceptably for a manager, full stop. I hope your company gives her an earful, and hopefully some official sanctions as well. She should not be managing anyone, frankly.

    Our system is completely broken to the extent that parents really, really struggle to do either role (worker or parent) well, and even becoming a parent at all is increasingly turning into a luxury. I’m honestly getting angry tears reading your letter.

  32. Reality Check*

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the dad with his daughter on Zoom has never had this conversation inflicted upon him. I’m a mother and in two different offices/employers I was told I couldn’t bring my kids in for half a day. They were middle & high school. But my male coworkers could, and did, no problem. One of them had all three of his at work, under the age of 7. This attitude is still prevalent unfortunately.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, I just heard someone on twitter phrase it as, the standards of being “a great dad” are so low, and the requirements of being “a crappy mom” are so little.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        That’s a great/depressing way to sum it up.

        When we were in the hospital after I had our baby, my husband got really uncomfortable with how every nurse and doctor constantly fawned all over him, praising him to the moon for being such an amazing father with every little thing he did. He was like…my wife is recovering from a major medical event – changing diapers, refilling her water, and holding the baby while she gets ready to nurse is literally the bare minimum/only thing I can do, is the bar really this low??

        It makes me sad to think what the medical staff must constantly see in the maternity ward to react that way.

  33. Turtlewings*

    If being a mother while working a job is so “unacceptable,” I’m so curious what this manager expects LW to do. Get rid of the kid??

    1. Sloanicota*

      Presumably daycare. This boss sounds like a jerk but may be over-applying the “parents returning to work must have childcare” rule that is not uncommon in offices. OP has childcare, so it shouldn’t be an issue.

      1. Myrin*

        I don’t think daycare is a solution in this boss’s mind because daycare or not, OP would still be a mother, and it’s being a mother that’s a problem, not whether she’s actually watching her child or not, so the only viable solution is clearly for OP to quit her job and become a SAHM.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      Sometimes for the right role anything should be on the table. I’ve had to leave a couple of really good kids behind but I did get to be a Senior Director.

      1. Double A*

        Ah yes, the classic choosing to step back from your high-pressure family to spend more time with your job.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          On my deathbed I’ll be that one person who wished they had spent more time in the officer

  34. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP — Yes, Alison is right, you have to escalate this because it effects your job. There is no way your manager’s prejudices against working mothers will not influence the way she evaluates your work. Full stop.

    I know it can be intimidating, but you have to report this to HR/employee relations. Use Alison’s language. It’s important to make it explicit that this is gender discrimination.

    Once that’s done, be sure to document anything at all your manager does that suggests she is treating you any differently at all from the rest of your team. DO NOT keep your documentation anywhere in the office where she could find it. Keep copies of any emails and forward them to your personal account. Also, be sure to document all your accomplishments and any praise you get from others in your organization. This will be helpful if your manager “forgets” a few things during your annual performance evaluation.

    You might also want to discreetly check in with any coworkers you know are parents. Has anybody else had a similar conversation with your manager? This could be something where it would be effective to push back as a group.

    I would also strongly recommend that you put your manager on what Captain Awkward calls a “low information diet” about your childcare arrangements or anything at all about your personal life. If she asks again, say something like “My husband and I have made the necessary arrangements.” What those arrangements are is really not her business.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this in the 21st century. The US economy has been dependent on the labor of women, including mothers, for at least the last 60 years. Too bad your manager hasn’t caught up with the times.

  35. Momma Bear*

    I had to read that bit about the grocery store twice.

    I do think it’s noteworthy, especially if you feel like you’re being treated differently than a father, OP. The comment about the store is extreme but also shows that she doesn’t have much respect for motherhood in general. Your office presumably has guidelines about childcare with remote work and your spouse caring for the children so you can work should be acceptable. One of the reasons I agree to not let this go is I once worked for a boss who sometimes gave single parents more leeway than married ones, nevermind that there might be circumstances where the employee was the primary caregiver, or the one closest to the school, etc. If OP keeps working for this person I can see the boss not allowing PTO for child-centric activities like Brunch with Mom for Mother’s Day at the preschool. I’d put boss on an info-diet regarding anything child related. You should be able to talk about your schedule and childcare but if she responds this negatively, just tell her the schedule you will need. And put these requests in writing to CYA.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I’ve definitely heard friends suggest that the details of your childcare arrangements are best avoided as topics at work, because someone will always suggest an alternative or have a recommendation for what you should be doing differently :( Falls into the general category of “people like to tell moms what to do.”

  36. Seahorse*

    That is wild. The things people will say out loud continue to shock me even though I should know better by now.

    OP, you’re not at all wrong to be offended. Your boss is misogynistic, discriminatory, and gross. As someone who is child-free by choice, I would 100% support a hypothetical coworker in going to HR over this. Even if the manager’s bizarre opinions don’t directly affect me, I still don’t want to work in a place that supports that kind of mistreatment. You know your workplace best, but you may have ready allies among your coworkers even if none of them quite fit into the same demographics or life stage as you.

    I’d also be concerned about other forms of discrimination cropping up from a manager who is so into gender essentialism. How would she react to a nonbinary employee or a gay couple adopting a child? I agree that this is absolutely worth escalating. (Her view on men is rather dim too, but the career impact on her male direct reports would be less obvious.)

  37. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    We’re getting so many “Worst Boss of the Year” candidates and the year is still young.

    I’m guessing they’re not looking at the statute we made of the previous years’ winners.

  38. thatoneoverthere*

    What magical daycare exists that I can take my kids to, anytime I want a solo grocery or target run?

    1. RagingADHD*

      She doesn’t mean literal daycare, as in a business that has professional caregivers for human children, with rules, and costs. Where the providers call you if there’s an issue, and where children can’t go if they’re sick or if there’s no room.

      She means “soundproof drop box.” That’s what she thinks daycare is – a place where you leave the kids whenever you feel like it, so nobody has to think about them or know they exist until you decide to pick them up.

    2. Antilles*

      I don’t know, but I’m assuming the cost for this daycare is roughly equal to the GDP of a reasonably sized nation-state.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      Well, I think we’re dealing with a dimension where kids aren’t really people, so they don’t need caregivers who know them, or who are expecting them or who are well paid. I know the boss’ misogyny and misandry are the real headline concerns, but I’d pencil in some time to worry about her critical thinking too.

  39. RagingADHD*

    In addition to the gender discrimination, comments like this point to a manager who believes being “fully committed” to a job = making your job into your whole identity and having no life outside it at all.

    Does she support her employees disconnecting during weekends and PTO? Using their sick days? Taking all the vacation they’re entitled to? I wonder.

    I would expect someone who makes this kind of comment to want their direct reports available 24/7/365.

  40. Modesty Poncho*

    Ewww….It sounds to me like she thinks mothers are just constantly thinking about and distracted by their kids, no matter where they are? And fathers just aren’t because….reasons. Gross. No advice…just pointing out my reading of the letter is even worse than Alison’s.

  41. MuseumChick*

    As a happily childfree by choice person let me say this as loud as I can: Your boss is gross, an idiot, misogynistic, and an idiot (yes, I listed it twice).

    Send HR an email detailing the conversation immediately

    1. Mrs. Hawiggins*

      Same here and I agree. I work with lots of moms and I don’t find any of them not fully giving their all to our place. OP’s boss is a total ding dong on this issue. As for putting them in day care to go to the grocery store, please. This boss has been burned by something in the past here. Doesn’t mean she has to throw flames at people doing their damndest every day inside and outside the workplace.

  42. chs.29*

    Oh my gosh. What a gross, gross thing to say.
    Her comment about the grocery store is so odd that I have to wonder if she’s been through some kind of strange event that terribly affected her judgement on family life. I can’t imagine what would cause someone to say something so weird, but I mean, taking kids to the store is so commonplace that I feel like there’s more to it. Absolutely no excuse for making such disgusting comments, regardless.

    1. mreasy*

      I have a friend who gets annoyed by kids at the store! She may complain to me about it. What she doesn’t do is: complain to the parents at the store; complain to her colleagues with children (!!).

        1. chs.29*

          Good point. Definitely a major difference between venting to a friend, and ranting to your employee that children should be put in daycare every time she goes to the store

      1. BaskingInMyWindowlessOffice*

        I don’t love bringing my kids to the store and do curbside for the longer trips. But I still take my kids because it can be a great learning experience and something they will have to do someday if the zombie apocalypse doesn’t get us first. Also, all kinds of people annoy me at the grocery store…people who get pushy with their carts, people who touch everything, people who stop for a chat and block the pasta forever. It’s life man.

    2. thatoneoverthere*

      As a Mom, I know a lot of people that don’t have kids that absolutely oblivious on what its like to be a parent. Like this boss who thinks there is some daycare around that you can just bring your kids too while you grocery shop. Or that kids simply shouldn’t exist in public. Or that OP can’t do her job effectively bc she is a Mom, and her husband can bc he’s a Dad.

      1. chs.29*

        I’m a mom too, but I haven’t run into anyone who thinks there’s a magical daycare (thankfully)! I do know plenty of people who get annoyed by kids in stores, but I think it’s super bizarre to say that to an employee with a child.

      2. BellyButton*

        Even if there was some magical daycare like that, you would then be judged on letting someone else raise your children!

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            You’re being judged for having children. All the details are is configuring the form of the judgment (cf. climax of Ghostbusters 1984).

    3. AthenaC*

      I think some people just think they are entitled to not ever be exposed to children. Usually those people just get really nasty online and have the good sense not to actually SAY those things in real life, but wonders never cease, I guess.

      The attitude seems to be that if you didn’t choose to have children, you have the right to never be exposed to children, ever. Also, if you did have children, it was obviously a deliberate choice and you need to be prepared to cocoon yourself and your family away from all the normal things that make us human.

      I will decline to speculate on why this attitude seems more common, but nevertheless it’s crap and I fully support parents and children continuing to exist, take up space, and (heaven forbid!) mildly inconvenience others by their presence in public spaces.

  43. Jennifer Strange*

    She then went on some weird rant about how she hates when moms take their kids to the grocery store and how they should be placed in daycare for that as well

    Ah, yes, those unicorn daycare centers that are open 24/7.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      When my kid was little a grocery chain near me actually had drop-in childcare! Even better it was during peak working parent hours including weekends.

      Only while shopping obvi and there were rules on age and length of time but it was really cool because face it, kids would rather go play than shop.

      It was done away with long before Covid.

      1. grocerystore*

        There was a grocery store near me that had one, when my oldest was a baby. He is now 12. It was done away with before my 2nd was born in 2014. I never used it simply for the fact that usually my husband and I took turns grocery shopping and watching my son.

  44. Trolly Polly*

    Well, it does make a difference. Ask Chelsea Handler, Stevie Nicks, and others. Their decision to not become mothers was immeasurably beneficial to them.

    1. BaskingInMyWindowlessOffice*

      And Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it was immeasurably helpful for her. What’s your point?

    2. Looper*

      It’s beneficial to them because our work culture and society at large are incredibly sexist and unwelcoming to mothers. Having a baby is not the problem, it’s our refusal to support the people who literally gave us all life that is the problem.

      1. Tuesday*

        This times a million. How many more women could become mothers AND have high-powered careers if we didn’t penalize them for choosing one over the other in some way?

    3. KatEnigma*

      “immeasurably” = can’t be proven either way. These were people who never wanted kids and feel a need to justify it.

      P!nk was told it would ruin her career. Diana Ross has 5 kids- and had them while she was performing. She brought them with her. It hasn’t stopped her any. Dolly Parton never had her own kids, but fully raised some of her younger siblings and nieces and nephews.

    4. Tired*

      Considering she already has a kid, I’m not sure why you thought this comment would be helpful? Or were you just hoping to turn this into a childfree echo chamber instead of a place where the OP can get advice about the situation she wrote in about?

    5. Antilles*

      First off, that’s a very YMMV situation; plenty of people would say that having kids hasn’t hurt their career at all. It might be more of a juggling act, it might require sacrificing hobbies, it might demand a lot of life discipline…but it’s certainly possible.

      Secondly, “Being The Best Teapot Designer” isn’t always the highest potential calling for everybody. I love my career and want to continue to be successful, but even so, it’s not my entire life. Even if it is real that “becoming a parent means being less successful”, I’d take that deal without hesitation – and I think plenty of people would say the same.

    6. Jennifer Strange*

      And I’m happy for them! My decision to become a mother was immeasurably beneficial to me. It’s not a contest, it’s a matter of choice.

      1. I have RBF*


        I’m CF, and I consider it a good thing when people choose to be parents, rather than the default “oh, it’s the life script, gotta have kids.” I consider it important that kids are wanted, not just hung around someone’s neck as an albatross for daring to have sex! Parents in a committed relationship who both actively parent are an even bigger plus!

        I babysat as a teenager. Oh, boy, were some of those kids a handful. They loved me because I was consistent, and their parents… weren’t. But it showed me that while I could do it for a few hours, I did not want to be a parent. It also gave me an appreciation for good parenting, good parents, and well raised kids. (Note: I know that there’s no such thing as a perfect parent, but people who care enough to try do make a difference.)

        I’m content to play long distance elder to my sister’s kids and grandkids.

        It takes all kinds to make a world.

    7. ADidgeridooForYou*

      And lots of mothers would say that having children is immeasurably beneficial to them. It’s all about what brings you happiness as an individual – there isn’t one path that’s objectively better than the other. I have childfree friends who say that not having kids was the best decision ever, and I have mom/dad friends who say becoming a parent was the best decision ever.

      Plus, what would the solution be, not letting anyone who’s a mom work? And then where would it end? Say someone without kids was taking care of their mom with dementia. He/she likely wouldn’t be able to perform at the same level. Should we ban them from working?

      1. I have RBF*

        Yeah, caretaking is caretaking, whether it’s kids or elders. Caretaking takes time and commitment, which means that the people can’t be “live to work” people. That doesn’t mean that they are any less dedicated when on the job, but they have responsibilities outside of just the job, and IMO that’s a good thing.

    8. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      Congrats you thought of two whole women, no one will ever be able to name as many counterexamples of women who had children and excelled at their jobs. I certainly couldn’t name as many *heads of state who gave birth while in office* heavens no.

    1. MurpMaureep*

      That was my exact reaction too! If I overheard that…well first I’d go right to HR and probably tell her boss I was doing so…but I’d also be very tempted to chime in “I also can’t be fully committed to work because I have no desire to be because that’s an asinine goal, also look at my cats”.

    2. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      I’m always stunned by some people’s apparent obliviousness to the fact that we all–ALL–are part of species that reproduces and that our young are remarkably dependent for a long, long time.

      That, or your boss is in fact an alien and they do things different on Planet Zod. They get to be Senior Director and just tear themselves in half to make a Junior Director who can already make spreadsheets and go to the store by herself.

  45. AthenaC*

    “Dad just isn’t focused on the kids.”

    Hoo boy – I’m a breadwinner with a stay-at-home husband. I USED to get this all the time when I was in my 20’s and a lot less scarier than I am at 40. It’s infuriating because there’s literally no reason I would automatically be a better parent than my husband. My ovaries are not magic. I have become a good parent through the continual, deliberate choice to do the things that good parents do, and my husband has done the same.

    “Kids shouldn’t go to the grocery store.”

    Yeah – okay. Here’s a clue – you live in a society. A society is made up of people. Some of them are children. Part of enjoying the benefits of society is making space and making grace for ALL of us – abled, disabled, old, young, and yes – this includes children. STFU.

    1. Tuesday*

      Yes! Part of going out in public is accepting the fact that you may be annoyed by some of the other people out there, regardless of age! Children are a part of society. That’s just life! If you don’t want to encounter them, you are free to stay home.

  46. BaskingInMyWindowlessOffice*

    This really jumped out at me, “She then went on some weird rant about how she hates when moms take their kids to the grocery store and how they should be placed in daycare for that as well . . ..” This is someone who really hates kids and should be wearing the Team Childless or whatever it was sweatshirt because they want to make a statement.

    Also it really bothers me about the grocery store thing. It is such a great learning experience.

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        No. Childfree. Because she’s so anti-child she’s positively gleeful about her freedom from children … except when she’s forced to see them in the grocery store.

        1. I have RBF*

          She should have a sweatshirt that reads “Hard Core Child Free”. Then parents will know not to expose their kids to them.

    1. mreasy*

      I would much rather be in a grocery store with kids than with adults who were never taught how to behave in a grocery store as kids!!!

  47. BellyButton*

    LW, you have been at the company for years too! 10 years is a long time!

    The whole thing is gross from her bias against mothers and of course, dads “watch” (babysit) their children, not parent them.

  48. Single Parent Barbie*

    I cannot believe in 2023 women are still put in these either or situations. And another woman is doing it! When my youngest was a baby, I applied and made it into grad school . I had 3 kids with the oldest heading into kindergarten. I had another woman from church tell me I couldn’t go to school because I was “a mother”. Fortunately for my kids, when my marriage ended and their father devolved into a dead beat, I had that masters to get good jobs that could support us!

    Please please please escalate this!

  49. Looper*

    Your boss is a sexist buffoon, escalate with the swiftness of light. Even if she’s been there longer, even if your HR isn’t the best, do not sit on this. At the very least you need to start the paper trail for when she starts targeting you.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah a paper trail is the very least of it. It is not a situation that’s going to go away or get better.

  50. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    Sometimes I think we’d all be better off if we stopped talking about “child care schedules” etc, and simply talked out loud about “availability schedules” that would be super inclusive of everyone’s various commitments, whether that’s dropping kids off at day care or running the Wednesday night trivia night at your local coffee shop.

    Some availability is set in stone, and some is not. And that’s all our employers need to know.

    1. LMM*

      Except, if you are a female-identifying parent who has taken parental leave at some point, it’s always going to be assumed that you prioritize your kid over your work, and any request for flexible scheduling is going to be attributed to your kid.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      The problem is that the words parenting and children shouldn’t be dirty words at work. With a reasonable boss you can just say the words. With an unreasonable one like this, they think you’re doing childcare even when you’re not!

    3. I have RBF*

      Yes, and if it’s not gendered or coded to different types of availability, then the people with no kids at home (which could be CF, pre-kids, empty nesters, etc) don’t get dragged into all of the extra coverage and overtime when they may need to do eldercare or any other type of non-work commitment.

      I always want to push back on the idea that not having kids in the house means you are “always available”, as well as the idea that having kids at home means you aren’t a “dedicated” worker. It’s two sides of an obnoxious coin, IMO.

      If I’m not available, I’m not available. It’s not really the business’ need to know why.

  51. LMM*

    I had a manager like this who had two nannies and an on-call babysitter and simply could not understand when I either worked from home with my husband watching our kid or took PTO if he couldn’t watch when my kid was sick and once asked me if I was aware of the company’s back-up childcare plan (I was). Just utterly out of touch with how most people handle lack of childcare, because she never had to.

  52. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Episode 1,593 in “Don’t use pop psychology as a basis for business management”

  53. The Person from the Resume*

    she didn’t feel like I could fully commit to being an employee while also being a mother; she said even though my husband is watching my child, I was still a mom and would not be able to focus on work and that dads were different, they can work and not focus on their children.

    I disagree with Alison. I doubt this manager would find a nanny accecptable childcare plan either. I think she believes mother cannot focus on work if their child is in the house, and the mother will be going off to play with or care for the child even if there’s another caregiver prsent.

    … which is completely loony IMO. Report the issue to HR. Say you believe that you will be discriminated agianst as the only mother on her team. This is an extreme bias and I would be fearful that it would be held against me if I were the LW.

  54. Annie*

    Something I have not yet seen mentioned: now that you know this about your boss, you don’t owe her transparency about what your childcare arrangements are. It’s clear that it’s a requirement of your full-time role that you have childcare, certainly – but you do, and it’s none of her business who provides it (as long as it’s not you) and where it takes place (in or outside of your home). Consider whether it might make your work life easier to tell some little white lies about the new offsite daycare you’ve found until an onsite spot opens up.

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

      She owes nothing to the boss. All that is needed is that there is childcare.

  55. Jamtoday*

    As a professional whose handled gender discrimination cases, and as a parent myself, over and over again the worst offenders of gender/parental discrimination are older women (45-65+) most of whom have had children themselves. My theory is they feel they had to preservers through the discrimination and misogyny, so you can too. LW please, please escalate this. Her statements and behavior were illegal, she needs to be held accountable.

    1. higheredadmin*

      Agree with this 100% (sadly). Had a boss just like this, and she had two kids and full-time nanny/private school/sitters.

      1. WhenIsRetirement*

        What Jamtoday said. Most toxic boss I ever had fell into that category, at a monprofit dedicated to the health of – wait for it – kids and families.

  56. Firebird*

    My former boss told me that she couldn’t understand why mothers even wanted to work and that if she had kids she would definitely want to stay home with them.
    Another time, she suggested that I hire her college age sister to babysit so I could work on a weekend.

  57. Moira Rose*

    Oooh sounds like someone’s boss has been spending time on the childfree subreddit…

    1. ADidgeridooForYou*

      Such a cesspool. There’s one subreddit I’ve spent time on whose name I can’t recall, but it was created for childfree people who wanted to discuss their decisions and discrimination they’ve encountered but without the vitriol from r/childfree. Much more wholesome.

  58. thatoneoverthere*

    This a classic example of all the BS that women have to put up with. We always, always damned if we do and damned if we don’t. This came from another woman, which is even more infuriating.

  59. 1-800-BrownCow*

    LW, as a working mom of 3 kids, who’s husband also works opposite hours, I’m so sorry you are going through this. I hate saying that I know how you feel, I’ve heard it before myself. But thankfully, not from a boss. It angers me that there are still people out there that have this attitude toward working mothers.

    I agree, this needs escalated. And if it seems that the company is not doing anything to support you, I’d start looking for another job. I wish you lots of luck!

  60. Raccacoonie*


    I am a mother and work at home, and have done so since I had my child. My husband takes care of him during the day. My first performance review after I returned from maternity leave was the absolute best of a great bunch I’ve received in over a decade at this workplace. Glowing. Hefty raise attached. My boss has flat-out said they’re grooming me to take over when they leave. I guess being a mom hasn’t caused my performance to tank, or given anyone a reason to doubt my commitment to my work. You’d almost think that was a bunch of sexist BS or something.

    1. mreasy*

      Right? I guess my boss, mother of a 9 year old and member of the C-suite of a leading company in our industry, must be underperforming!

  61. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I’m a childfree manager, and have several members of staff who are parents. My only concern is that they get the work done – their home life is none of my business.

    Your manager has fallen victim to the worst tendency of society: to assume a woman is forever a mother first and foremost and can be nothing more.

    It’s revolting, not backed by any kind of science or modern morals and definitely not backed by law. How much you push back against her though depends on how much energy you have:

    1. Ignore her statements and never make any mention of childcare around her. This is the low energy option.

    2. Tell her outright that her views are her own but you have different opinions on what is optimal for YOUR family and that you do not want to hear anything more about it. This one is more confrontational and runs a risk.

    3. Take this higher up with a formal complaint about her. The high energy option.

    I dare say there are other options! We women are judged whatever we do. Personally I’d go for the approach I used with a boss who was on my case constantly about why I don’t want kids: “my reproductive choices are mine to make and I am not a willing audience for any views otherwise”

    1. Annie*

      It doesn’t matter if the manager is childless or not. This looks like discrimination, plain and simple.

    2. MurpMaureep*

      This woman is in charge of others’ pay, career advancement, perception in the company, and work assignments. Her comments are discriminatory and should be escalated immediately.

      I get the desire to try to handle this oneself (and I’m sorry you felt the need to address such things with your boss!), but it’s a huge deal that she feels empowered to say those things out loud to her staff member.

      This isn’t a normal “manage the manager” situation, where you might need to reinforce some better behavior in a higher up. This is someone telling her employee that she does not believe she can do her job for reasons soaked in prejudice.

    3. PlainJane*

      Not only isn’t it backed by science, it’s not backed by thousands of years of human experience. There was a brief flicker of time in the early 20th century when this was a norm, but for most of human history, women were out in the fields working with kids on their backs. Did they work outside the home? No, but most people didn’t; that’s a very modern thing. But they were working. With kids.

  62. MeepMeep123*

    I’d escalate this all the way to the friendly local employment lawyer, myself. If there’s evidence (i.e. a Zoom recording or an email), so much the better.

  63. Onward*

    The ‘parents should leave their kids in daycare to go to the grocery store’ thing is so insane to me.

    So, at least in the US, parents do not deserve access to affordable daycare or even support networks, but also we expect them to have them for all situations so that no one who does not like being around children ever has to be in the presence of children.

    I just hate all of this. Parents are expected to act like it’s some (highly idealized, heteronormative) version of the 1950s where men go to work and provide for their families while women stay home and care for the house and children:
    -but if women don’t want to do that, then they just shouldn’t have kids
    -but also what are you doing not having kids??? Don’t all women want kids?? What’s wrong with you???
    -but LOL no, we’re not going to raise wages to even make our ideal possible

    It’s almost as if no one can win in this system? Crazy, right?

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

      It’s children should be seen not heard, but to the extent of OP’s manager not wanting to see or hear children.

  64. Purple Jello*

    Please, report her.

    I was a mom and held a full time job. Were there times I was distracted? Yes: so was their father sometimes for the same incident, sometimes not.

    I’d also like to say that Some of my coworkers were more distracted with their pets than I ever was with my children. I’m not kidding. (When we suddenly lost our dog, I had a colleague say she couldn’t believe I hadn’t taken the day off and was actually productive.)

    Your boss will treat you differently; please report her. I wonder if there aren’t other moms on her team because they already learned this.

    1. I&I*

      If the job is so high-intensity that it literally can’t be done by anyone who has cares in their life other than THE JOB, then it ought to be paid enough to afford gold-plated childcare! Jobs are done by people, people usually manage somehow.

  65. AA Baby Boomer*

    Please take this to HR and file a grievance. Do not put this off. I work for the state and we have a time limit on filing grievances. They must be filed/submitted within 30 days of the event. Afterwards it will not be addressed. I do not understand people being stupid enough to say stuff along this line. You think some type of self preservation would kick in. Bad enough she thinks this; but she told the one female in the office that has children.

    They need to get rid of her. When an employer wants to viewed as flexible and family oriented; they do not want a manager that does not hold the same values & is stupid enough to target the person. Please let us know how you decided to handle this and how it played out. Makes me wonder if she avoids hiring mothers. Would be interesting to know if she has elimiated mothers from the interview pool.

  66. Purple Jello*

    Also, the grocery store? My kids learned all sorts of things at the grocery store: how to price shop, stay within a budget, what weird vegetables tasted like, how to interact with other people, what happens when you have a meltdown in public because I wouldn’t buy “the candy cereal” like Erin’s mom, how to plan ahead, how to follow a list. Grocery shopping eventually turned into mother-daughter time until they moved out in their 20’s.

    Sorry lady, I’m not hiding my kids from all society because you want to pretend you sprung up all full grown overnight from fairy dust.

    1. Alpaca Bag*

      +1 for “what happens when you have a meltdown in public because I wouldn’t buy “the candy cereal” like Erin’s mom”

    2. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

      Going to the grocery store also just helps kids learn to be human in public. I know someone where they do not take the kid out. Granted she was born during the beginning of the pandemic so there was a safety issue. but she is almost three now and they don’t take her anywhere. They said that she gets scared and screams when they go to the grocery store because she doesn’t know what to do. By taking kids in public you teach them how to interact with people.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this.

        Not to mention the first time the kid is allowed to go to the corner store on their own to buy, say, a couple cartons of milk, and to get a small candy bar or something with the money that’s left over.

        I get it that it’s not safe to do so everywhere, but I was 10 when I did that for the first time. I still remember the feeling of being a big girl who was given some responsibility, and how proud of myself I was.

        I’m wondering about that parent’s logic, their kids will never learn what to do in a grocery store if they never get to go there…

      2. Pointy's in the North Tower*

        I see you’ve met my friend’s kid. Born right before the pandemic and frankly has no idea how to interact with people other than his parents and grandparents. Add in some possible neurospiciness, and yeah, this kid is going to have it rough in two years when they start preK.

      3. Pointy's in the North Tower*

        I see you’ve met my friend’s kid. Born around the same time, and frankly has no idea how to interact with anyone beyond his parents and grandparents. Add in possible neurospiciness, and yeah, kid’s going to have a rough time when he starts PreK in two years.

  67. NeedRain47*

    If she’s been there for years, I’d be surprised if this is the first time she’s said something like this to someone (who may or may not have reported it themselves).

  68. PlainJane*

    What the actual…?

    This is wrong on so many levels. It manages to be misogynist and misandrist at the same time (“Fathers just don’t really care about their children”/”Mothers can’t pay attention to their jobs”), and to break labor laws in major ways. Even if the manager had these things in her head–enough of a problem–what in the office culture made her think it’s okay to actually use them as criteria with an employee?

    Honestly, I can’t come up with anything deeper than a hearty whiskey-tango-foxtrot on this one.

  69. MomOf3*

    Kids are humans and have a right to exist in public. Parents are humans and have a right to exist in public, with their children. We’re trying to have a society here folks. The expectation that anybody with kids will just hibernate in their house for the first five years in order to avoid inconveniencing or annoying someone at a grocery store, or airplane, or other public setting, is WILD.

    1. PlainJane*

      Agree 100%, and I’d also add the genuine head-scratcher… how in the world does she think adults learn to behave in public if, as children, they were never taken out in public with a parent in order to learn it?

  70. Emily S.*

    LW — Wow, this is one of the most appalling things I’ve seen in quite a while. Like other commenters, I’m pissed on your behalf. This woman’s comments are unacceptable and completely unprofessional, in addition to being unfair and hateful.

    She has shown you her true colors, and you should not tolerate this treatment for another minute.

    I hope you can send us a good update down the road on this one.

    Good luck and I’m sorry. Rooting for you.


  71. Megan*

    I think I’m going to take my kids to the grocery store *more* now.

    What if we talked about disabled adults this way? Or the elderly? “If you want to be old that’s fine, but I don’t want to have to look at you.”

    1. DoodleBug*

      There used to be actual laws prohibiting visibly disabled people from being seen in public. (Google “Ugly Laws”).

      I’m agreeing with you, just pointing out that people *did* talk about disabled adults that way in the not-too-distant past.

    2. Dahlia*

      Oh, people absolutely do. Ever see someone get pissed at people who “walk slow” in the grocery store? Or disabled adults who are loud or have meltdowns? Yeah.

  72. Punk*

    I think part of the issue is that the LW said that her husband watches the baby during the day, but that she would still need to adjust her childcare plans to go back to the office. There may be a valid explanation (lunch breaks, commute time), but on its own, that statement doesn’t compute. The LW needs to iron out that wrinkle before approaching HR, IMO.

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

      I don’t think that the OP needs to wait to talk with HR. It sounds like she is on a waitlist for childcare. Also I think she was just making conversation with the boss, not saying once specific thing.

      It might be something like when OP worked from home she got done at 3 and her husband left for work at 4. Since she was at home there was no commute. Now she has an hour commute and they need to cover the afternoon so her husband can go to work.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      No, the boss was out of line regardless. If she had concerns about the LW’s ability to be in the office that’s a valid thing to discuss with her, but this is a whole other can of worms.

  73. Mark*

    There are so many times in which an employee says “I’m going to file an EEOC claim or sue you!” and it is completely baseless, just another disgruntled employee. This is not one of those cases. I would absolutely go to HR, and if they don’t properly help, have a talk with the EEOC.

  74. Sammmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm*

    I had a boss like this — on my initial office tour, he scoffed at the “mothers room” and how it had a tv, a microwave, a really comfy recliner and would make a great place to take a nap. He introduced me to the one person on the team (other than his boss) who had a child, and said she was the first that he’s met that hand a “great work/mom-life” balance and she never forgot anything. All of this was before I got pregnant.

    Once I came back from my maternity leave, he never let up. He went from a hand off “I trust you” type of boss – to constantly questioning and second guessing everything I did. Another coworker came back a few weeks later, after her leave and immediately asked if I noticed a difference. A third coworker (male) came back from his parental leave a few months later, and said there it was a complete opposite – he increased his workload to help him get in better standings for a promotion.

    We never went to HR, but every new mother has left within 6 months of being back and having to report to him. Through therapy, I realized that the change in treatment (and constant questioning) exacerbated my PPA/PPD and made me question everything I was.

    1. allathian*

      I’m sorry that happened to you.

      Not all men and all that, but I can sort of understand this behavior when the perpetrator’s a man with old-fashioned attitudes to parenthood. But it never fails to astonish me that women can be just as misogynistic as some men are.

  75. FYI*

    Now that sex and gender are no longer generally/popularly considered synonymous, we should stop using terms like “gender-based discrimination” unless referring to a law that is specifically about gender or gender identity. All of our anti-discrimination laws protecting women in the US are sex-based. (I know this seems pedantic, but it does change the meaning and understanding of the application of these laws in some scenarios.) Just an informational comment. Not trying to incite debate.

    1. allathian*

      Fair point.

      I’m not in the US, but our equality laws are being rewritten to include trans people as well, now that our trans law has finally been changed. Used to be that you had to prove you were irreversibly sterile as the first step in the gender transition process, but this requirement has thankfully finally been rescinded in our new trans law.

  76. Gossip Glue*

    I feel like a real bang for your buck in terms of action would be to just go to the dad who shows off his daughter and tell him what your manager said… gossip about this, enjoy the catharsis. Her attitude is so strange that this is the kind of juicy detail that would (and frankly should) quickly spread around, it would be fascinating to see what happens if this convo leaks out to other people in the company.

    I mean, why else have people come back into the office if not to have these kinds of “in person” bonding moments?

  77. Kit*

    Solidarity! The reason I left my first real job was because my supervisor not only said something similar but actually put it in writing in my yearly evaluation. I called the union in a hurry, that evaluation was removed, I was transferred to another position at another location, and that supervisor got “early retirement.” Complain to whoever you need to complain to. This is a big deal.

    I also find it interesting that you are the only mother on your team. Has she driven them all away with previous comments/unfair treatment? It might be worth doing some nosing around to find out.

  78. Insert pun here*

    Look, I am childless by choice, don’t really like children, actively avoid spaces with a lot of kids, and am often kind of resentful at the deference that SOME workplaces (obv not this one!) have to the needs of parents versus single people. This woman is out of her gourd, full stop. If you had any doubt that she was out of her gourd, let me assure you: she is 100% out of her gourd.

    I am kind of fascinated at the whole “here I am, doing illegal things, illegally, having a great time breaking the law!” conversational tactic. A bold strategy for sure!

  79. Thatcher*

    In an email “hey boss. I thought about our conversation on the elevator where you said that mothers can’t be good employees. I want to take you that I was an excellent employee before becoming a mother and continue to be excellent after as well. … Continue email”
    Something to get this on writing that she said these things. If she replies and acknowledges what she said that’s great! Written proof, if she doesn’t reply or does but doesn’t acknowledge her comments you still have a record of what you heard from her. And you are addressing it with her on the record.

  80. Laura Cruz*

    I’d love to say I’m surprised, but you’d never believe how many women I’ve met that have this attitude :/

  81. Luna*

    Wow, what your new team leader is saying is absolutely sexist! Someone should tell her.
    Not to mention kinda dumb because every parent is a parent all the time, even when they are at work. You don’t, you know, stop being part of what makes you you just because you are in a different situation.

    And as for not bringing kids to the grocery store, “Well, if they don’t, when is the kid supposed to learn how to behave in a store and how to buy groceries in a store?” Like, I can understand if the kid is throwing a huge tantrum and the team leader doesn’t like the loud noises coming from the kid (I don’t, either, it gives me sensory overload), but kids are part of society and you have to be used to them being around where you are.
    If you want to avoid as many children as possible, I would say you’d need to lock yourself away, and only go shopping around 3AM or so, when child are most likely to not be around.

  82. Therese*

    I pretty much hate going to the grocery store when there is *anybody* in there since I like to get in and out really quickly. I get grocery pickup mostly, and if I do have to go in a store, go at weird times when I have it to myself. But she’s wrong about the kids – they’re not usually a problem. The absolute hardest to shop with are the elderly. I am OF COURSE nice, polite, and respectful to them, but when you’re trying to get out quickly, oof. I know this is a big part of your day, and that it’s really fun to talk with the checkout clerk for a long time, and get ALLLLLL your coupons out, and get the checkbook out, make sure everything is bagged correctly, etc etc, but oh my please my feet hurt and I want to go home this century. Also, couples can often be really annoying too, when they’re either being all lovey dovey picking out a meal together or conversely, being all grumbly with each other when they can’t agree. Kids are rarely an issue!

  83. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP’s boss is way, way over the line, and OP should go to HR without hesitation and report this conversation.

    I see what the boss wants. Boss’s idea of “fully committing” is putting work first, as the priority over family and personal life. goodluckwithdat

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