my coworker is bringing his kid to work and on Zoom calls … but the rest of us are paying for child care

A reader writes:

Even posing this question, I am asking myself: AITA?

A colleague of mine had his first child during the pandemic. Obviously, like parents worldwide (myself included), he was at a loss for childcare. During that time we all worked from home, and children, pets, and partners appeared in and out of Zoom screens. My colleague had the benefit of having a family member (not the child’s other parent) provide primary care for the child in their home, an arrangement that continues to this day.

Three years on, however, we are back to work in a hybrid way. My colleague continues to have his child cared for at home, and the now toddler still regularly appears in Zoom meetings. My issue is that my colleague’s family member is sometimes unavailable. And on days my colleague is required to come into the office, he brings his toddler to work.

I know that now and again we all suffer an unexpected gap in childcare, and that may result in bringing a child to work. But this is becoming more than a once-in-a-blue moon phenomenon.

I get it: daycare is expensive. I have to pay for it for my own children, and all my other colleagues with young children have also provisioned for more stable child care arrangements. While the disruption that this situation causes is fairly limited, I am reminded of that children’s book “What if Everybody Did That?”

The situation also raises two equity-related concerns for me. First, my colleague’s job description means that he can work remotely more than 50% of the time, and his on-site work does somewhat accommodate a child in tow. But we have other staff members who can work off-site no more than 20% of the time, and their on-site work is not at all child-friendly. Employees who can avoid paying daycare fees effectively enjoy a $10,000-$18,000 annual perk. My second equity-related qualm is that this seems to me like a behavior that male employees can get away with and be seen as a “good dad,” while female employees could be considered “unprofessional.”

I’m not sure how to raise this in my organization, for fear of being seen as unsupportive of working parents. Any advice?

This is so tricky. First and foremost, is there still a child care shortage in your area? Since you and your other coworkers all have secured child care, I’m going to assume there’s not — but if there is (and if, for example, everyone else who has it is relying on family members rather than outside carers), none of the rest of this answer applies. If people in your area literally can’t hire child care right now, then your coworker is doing what he can. But assuming it’s available…

The biggest thing I’d focus on is the impact on your work (and if you manage a team, on your team’s work). If he’s unavailable when you need to reach him during work hours because he’s tending to his toddler, or if he’s letting his child disrupt or delay calls, those are legitimate work issues to raise, with him directly or with your manager or his. (And those are real problems — there’s a reason that before the pandemic and subsequent child care shortage, most companies had policies prohibiting working from home if you were caring for young kids at the same time. It’s the same reason why so many parents desperately needed some slack when schools and daycares were closed and they had no choice but to watch their kids at the same time they were working.)

It’s also reasonable to ask, “What if everyone did this?” It’s not fair for one person to regularly bring his kid to work if others wouldn’t be allowed to do it (and it’s reasonable to be concerned about the impact on the work environment if lots of other people did). Your equity concerns are real ones, too.

Whether you’re well-positioned to be the one raising those questions is a different issue, though. If you’re new or very junior or not in great standing or recently used a bunch of political capital on something else, you might not be well-positioned to raise it. On the other hand, if you have some seniority and are in good stranding and you have some capital built up — and especially if you’re in a role with some management responsibility, although that’s not essential — you might be better positioned to bring it up within your organization.

What that should look like is harder to say. If you have the ear of someone who has the authority to deal with this more broadly, you could use that route — framing it as, “I’m glad we’re supportive of working parents, especially as one myself, but now that child care is more widely available again, I’m concerned that letting one person regularly bring their kid to work when everyone else is paying for child care risks becoming an equity issue … or causing problems if multiple people decide it’s okay to do.” You could also ask for clearer policies on working while caring for children — perhaps suggesting, for example, that working remotely while caring for a young child be explicitly allowed in emergency situations (such as when an employee’s regular child care falls through or a child is home sick) but not as the default plan because of the distractions created. (That doesn’t get at the fact that not everyone has a job that will allow for those emergency exceptions — for example, some people will have jobs that can’t be done from home at all — and so you might suggest a solution like this one to counter that.)

There’s still a risk that someone will feel you’re coming down too hard on working parents — I assume someone’s going to accuse me of that for writing this answer! — or on this one colleague in particular, but these are reasonable positions to take and reasonable concerns to raise.

Our norms around this changed so much during the pandemic — because they had to change for a while or parents wouldn’t be able to be in the workforce at all — but if indeed child care is once again accessible in your area (if), companies need to be having these conversations openly and resetting expectations to fit the situation now.

{ 328 comments… read them below }

  1. learnedthehardway*

    I think this is something you should probably let HR or management handle. IF the situation is causing disruption to your or your team’s work, or if the employee’s performance is suffering and it is affecting you / your team’s ability to get your own work done, then it’s something to bring up with your manager – for that specific reason.

    Otherwise, I would leave the coworker’s manager to deal with the situation. It’s likely that they will, sooner or later, if the child becomes an issue in the workplace.

    I don’t think any good can come of you bringing it up unless it is posing an actual problem to you/ your team.

    1. KHB*

      That was my impression too. OP is not this employee’s manager, and it doesn’t sound like the child is disrupting her (or anybody’s) work at all. The complaint is just that this might seem unfair to somebody somewhere. Which is not OP’s problem to solve.

      1. KWu*

        Agreed, this exactly. Once the letter said, “While the disruption that this situation causes is fairly limited,” it became not an issue for a colleague to get into, it’s on the manager.

      2. Tupac Coachella*

        I got the impression that the underlying tone is that it seems unfair to OP. It doesn’t really change the advice, but I suspect OP feels ick about this and can’t quite put their finger on why since they don’t have any issue with the coworker specifically, just the inherent inequity of the situation. It’s a case of reverse BEC. I don’t think it makes OP a bad person, it’s a human feeling. In this case OP does have reasons beyond “it’s not fair,” but the real discomfort is stemming from that feeling, not the legitimate concerns that aren’t really OP’s problem.

      3. Kella*

        Actually I think this *does* impact OP, and the other employees who have children, it’s just not a direct impact.

        The impact is that by bringing his toddler to work, it raises the question: Does this employer offer the option of bringing your kid to work as an alternative to external childcare? Under what circumstances is this allowed? Because if this is explicitly allowed, likely more employees would take advantage of this perk in order to save money on childcare.

        But at the moment, it appears as if this isn’t explicitly allowed and it is the fact that no one else is doing it that makes it even possible for this employee to do it at all. I think the equity issues around some jobs allowing for remote work or children to be present can’t really be resolved. But at the moment, the inequity in childcare options among those whose jobs would allow for a child at work is being created by one person making a choice.

        One potential framing OP could use would be to ask someone in charge if theoretically, this option is available to them, and other employees, too. They may not want to do it now or perhaps ever but it’s useful information to have as a parent if bringing their child to work is a viable backup plan. Raising this question might be enough to prompt examining the issues in the current arrangement.

        1. Boof*

          Yes exactly; it sounds like the real work question for op is “can i also work while caring for my kiddo as a backup childcare option”?

        2. sundae funday*

          Yes, I totally understand OP’s position because it is unfair. I would feel the exact same way. But it is going to be difficult to raise the issue without sounding whiney and “it’s not faaaaair.”

          The difference, I think, between the other parents and this coworker is that the coworker has someone who will watch the child for free… MOST of the time. He isn’t bringing the child every day, so it’s not like everyone else could just be like “cool, we’ll cancel daycare and save a ton of money and my kids will come to work with me daily” because that’s a different situation.

          So is there another way the employees with kids can leverage this in their favor? If they know that bringing kids to work when they can’t go to daycare is a viable option, then that might be helpful.

          (Although that also hints at my personal pet peeve, which is my coworkers bringing their kids to work with them when they’re too sick to go to daycare. I understand that they don’t have any other options. I don’t say anything. They’re single moms. They don’t have a choice. But still I’m like… can we please make sure little Typhoid Mary here is at least quarantined somewhere in the office??)

          1. Teaching teacher*

            Now I am wondering if I am a Bob! I’ve been reading the comments wondering how it applies to me and how awful it was that I took a perk that no one else could have.

            I am a teacher. One slight question is that staff whose kids went to the school could bring their grade school aged kid in the morning. Everyone who lived out of town had to both pay more gas and before and after school child care. Technically that’s inherently unfair by the standards in some of these comments. My main question is that this year I had a weird schedule issue that allowed me to bring my preschooler to school one day a week. No one else in the last twenty years that I’ve worked there has ever been able to bring in their preschooler because they start later, but I had a weird one year only schedule quirk for one day a week. I wonder if some commenters would say I shouldn’t have done that because no one else could ever save money on before school care except for me.

        3. Chilipepper Attitude*

          I really like the idea from Kella to ask someone in charge if bringing OP’s child to work or dropping day care on wfh days is an option for the OP as OP needs to know for moving forward with their own child care plans.

        4. AlsoADHD*

          I think that honestly this notion that if some roles can’t be remote, flexible, let you bring your children in then NONE should is kind of… not great either. Every job has different needs. Now granted I can’t think of many jobs that you should do with a toddler in tow so I’m not defending bringing the toddler necessarily. But I don’t think “I can’t so you can’t” is fair if the reason some can’t is fundamentally different jobs and needs.

          1. Kella*

            I think that OP asking those questions and considering those variables is not actually about wanting to totally shut down a perk unless it can be given to everyone. I think those questions point to the larger question here, which is, What is the company offering its employees with regards to childcare? What are the company’s goals?

            If the goal is, “help the people who need it the most and no one else” then it’s likely with the current arrangement some people are getting left out. If the goal is “Lighten the load for all parents” then it would be necessary both to let more parents bring their kids to work AND potentially to offer some kind of subsidizing of childcare costs as a work benefit for parents who can’t do that. If the goal is, “Be flexible with parents to the extent that it does not significantly impact the company’s function and bottom line” then the inequities around remote work and appropriateness of bringing a toddler to your job are irrelevant BUT what “being flexible” means needs to be defined so that parents know what options are available to them.

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree–OP raises some interesting big-picture questions, in particular the fact that men doing this are more likely to be seen as “good dads” while women would be more likely to be judged as unprofessional. But that is a big-picture issue and there is nothing to do about it in this one particular case.

        It sounds like this guy has in-home childcare most of the time, occasionally has his kid while working (there is a pretty large gap between “regularly” and “once in a blue moon” so it’s honestly hard to tell from the letter how often this is), has a role that is conducive to this setup, and there does not seem to be any impact to anyone. This doesn’t seem like something OP should pursue to me.

        Yeah, he’s getting a better deal on child-care (though just because he is using family doesn’t automatically mean he isn’t paying them!). Some people get better deals on houses or move close to the office so they don’t have a car. I think if your office is accommodating and flexible that is overall a good thing. Maybe in the future you’ll need some kind of accommodation or flexibility, so it’s good to work somewhere that doesn’t make up rigid rules just because.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          Yeah, my first clarification would be: “How often is the child in office?” My second would be, “How often is the child in on a zoom call, and is this because the caregiver is away or because the Dad* is a bit lax on enforcing child care vs workspace boundaries even when the caregiver is there?” How often is this caregiver absent? Once a week? Twice a week? Usually only once every few months but there was a two week long medical emergency recently so it seemed very common and is fresh in mind?

          * Yes, ideally the caregiver should be keeping the child out regardless of Dad’s opinion, but if the Dad is overly permissive about it, that makes it harder for the caregiver to make or enforce that boundary.

      5. Rainbow*

        I genuinely can’t imagine a toddler in the office not being disruptive. But I’m willing to take OP’s word for it… maybe

    2. L-squared*

      This was my thought. There doesn’t seem to be, from what is written, an actual work problem here. It seems his work isn’t suffering, and his role is one where this works.

      Sometimes everything just isn’t equal or equitable for everyone. I’m at a company where we have 2 offices in cities, but those offices combined only make up about 1/3 of the employees. So everyone else gets to WFH all the time. That isn’t equitable either, but it is what it is.

      This really just seems like an issue that OP is angry about, but that isn’t really affecting anything.

      1. AD*

        OP’s reference to “While the disruption that this situation causes is fairly limited” suggests this is more about their perception of the optics here being concerning to them rather than a consistent work-related issue.

        I think equity issues can be important but Alison addresses in her answer the real problem that childcare is still so inaccessible/unaffordable in so many areas. I appreciate that.

        1. Anonymous parent*

          Another aspect of childcare availability: If a family member normally cares for the kid, we’re essentially talking about a problem with back-up care, which can be a lot harder to find. Plus, if family is the primary, then that means family can’t be the back-up.

      2. jasmine*

        I think the first equity concern (his role let’s him do this, but other roles don’t) doesn’t hold up. Different roles allow for different kinds of flexibility. Like how some have to come in to the office more times than others, based on their job responsibilities.

        The second one though, is something that concerns me more. A woman bringing in her kid to work would be doing more harm to her career than a man doing the same.

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          The first one concerns me regarding bringing the child INTO the office. It’s one thing to say “this role requires Bob to produce 10 widget reports during a 12 hour period, whether than means he does that during a 7 hour in office work day or in between watching his child from home is completely up to Bob” it’s another to say that the company will assume the liability of Bob bringing his child to the office but others would have to work from home or take a day off under the same conditions.

          1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            I’m glad someone brought up the potential liability. Under my Old Manager, people used to bring kids to the office for hours or even a full day when they were off school/had no one to watch them at home. It always made me uncomfortable and I was glad when New Manager put a stop to it and clearly said our insurance didn’t permit it and that there were items in our office that made it an inappropriate place for children.

            1. Liz*

              Exactly. Offices are not child proof. You’ve got stuff plugged in and wires to pull. There’s small things to put in the mouth. There are chemicals (toner, cleaning solutions) in low cabinets. The bathrooms are adult scale not child scale.

              Basically the parent is burdening everyone to keep the toddler safe.

              And it’s a lot of hours in an unsuitable environment. No toys. No playmates. No one paying attention.

    3. My Useless 2 Cents*

      But in a way everyone is effected. Seeing another coworker getting a perk that you do not get effects morale overall. Management may see no problem with the situation and coworker can be doing their job at an adequate level but that doesn’t mean that every other working parent in the office isn’t getting salty and dissatisfied. If no one mentions anything because it is not an “actual” problem then management doesn’t know it is actually a problem until they walk into the office one day to a bunch of unhappy workers at BEC stage.

      It would be better for everyone if you go to a manager you trust and put a bug in their ear.
      You don’t have to propose or recommend a solution, but at least get someone within management to see that maybe they don’t want this to get out of hand. Maybe a “I know it’s a small thing, but seeing Toddler in the office and on zoom calls so often it makes me think that I would love to spend more time with my kids and save on some of those daycare expenses. As I think other coworkers would as well.”

      1. me... just me*

        I agree with you on this one. If everyone else has to pony up the money for $1000 worth of childcare each month, that expectation should hold true for the OP’s coworker. Otherwise, everyone just needs to start bringing their own kids into the office on a daily basis. The only reason that it’s not causing a disruption at this point, is because he’s getting this “perk” that nobody else is. If everyone did what he is doing, it certainly would cause workplace issues. That’s the discussion to be had — The OP could just ask their boss about doing this themselves (and also infer that their other colleagues would probably like to benefit from this bring-your-child-to-work benefit) and see what the response is.

        1. goducks*

          It’s not about requiring anybody to pony up money. Some people will have free childcare solutions (a set of grandparents who live in the home, a non-working spouse, whatever). It’s about having a solid solution, that doesn’t result in frequent gaps in coverage where he’s trying to work and care for his kid.
          If he had a solid solution, the fact that he doesn’t pay for childcare would be moot. It’s the fact that he is saving money by having a less than solid solution when others would not be allowed to do that.
          If he found a solid solution that was free, I doubt the LW would know or care. Most parents would love to forego all that expense if a “most of the time” childcare solution could get them by. But most employees can’t get away with that.

          1. Observer*

            If he found a solid solution that was free, I doubt the LW would know or care.

            They might not know, but the clearly would care. Because one of the things that OP says is that even though the job genuinely allows for SOME of this, it’s not fair because others can’t do it because of the nature of their jobs.

            The issue of “What if everyone does this” is different, and definitely legitimate. That’s the kind of thing about which I think they could, as someone else says, “put a bug” in their manager’s ear.

          2. Ahnon4This*

            If he had a solid solution, the fact that he doesn’t pay for childcare would be moot.

            Exactly. Bringing up that he’s getting out of paying for childcare while others have to pay does nothing for the argument against him bringing his child imo. There are plenty of people who get free childcare through friends/family.

            Genuinely do not think LW should be worrying about this as much as they are unless the child was there constantly (doesn’t sound that way to me) or if the child was disruptive (they’re not by LW’s account). If anything, they should see if their manager would allow them to bring their child to work in case of a last minute cancellation of child care.

            1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

              Honestly, you can say they shouldn’t be worried about this, but I have friends paying like $2,000 a month in child care. It is the difference between whether they can contribute to their 401K or their kids college fund or save a down payment for a house. If other employees believe they are required to have reliable child care and they are paying five figures for that, I could see them getting very frustrated that LW’s Dad Coworker is bringing their child into work when their otherwise free child care option is busy and thinking “I have to have reliable child care coverage because we can’t bring our kids to work and, because of that, I have to pay for it. Because Bob can bring his child to work, he doesn’t need reliable child care, and therefore he can use free, less reliable child care.”

              Like, Bob is getting the option to either get reliable child care or not whereas co-workers are not getting that option. Even if co-workers could bring their kids in 2 days a week, that is a ton of money they could save and that option seems to not be available to them…not because their jobs don’t allow it but because they aren’t Bob.

              1. Kim*

                “I have to have reliable child care coverage because we can’t bring our kids to work and, because of that, I have to pay for it. Because Bob can bring his child to work, he doesn’t need reliable child care, and therefore he can use free, less reliable child care.”

                Yes, this!

              2. Ahnon4This*

                Again, they should ask if they can bring their children to work in case of childcare falling through last minute. It is possible that their work would allow them to do it as well. There is nothing in the letter that supports the idea that only this guy can do this, because the LW doesn’t mention if anyone else has even asked if they can do something similar. It sounds like they’re all assuming they can’t.

                My main point is that it is unfair to bring the cost of it up because plenty of coworkers could be receiving free childcare which allows them to save, but that doesn’t entitle the workers who have to pay for their childcare compensation.

              3. hbc*

                But it sounds like Bob’s job is more amenable to having a kid around, and it’s lousy for an employer to enforce the worst possible scenario for everyone. If the janitor still had to come in through all of Covid restrictions, should every last employee have had to come in too? Should the people on the factory floor have to wear a suit and polish their shoes because the customer-facing people have to dress up? Do they turn off the AC in the office because there are fieldworkers out in the heat?

                I think it’s worth nailing down how much people can flex their childcare, but other people being jealous because Bob’s in-office activities are safe for kids to be around isn’t reason to take away his “perk.”

                1. JM60*

                  Like a lot of employee equitability issues, the problem isn’t that someone *is* getting the benefit per se, but rather why someone isn’t also getting the benefit. Of course, not all perks work for all types of jobs. But I agree with your general approach. I think it’s better to try to maximize whatever perks/compensation can work out for each individual position, rather than to drag things down to the “lowest common denominator”.

                  Even if the coworker’s position is not any more amenable to the perk of having their kid at work than anyone else’s position, I’d argue that it’s somewhat like finding out that a coworker is getting paid muck more for the same work as you. You shouldn’t ask your employer to lower your coworker’s salary to even things out; you should ask your employer to start paying you more. (Admittedly, this isn’t a perfect analogy, since the practical realities of the two situations aren’t the same. But I think it works well enough for my point)

        2. jes*

          Oh—- my kingdom for childcare that costs only $1000 per month!
          We have been on a wait list since before our child was born in 2021. We are still nowhere near the top of any wait lists. And if we do get in, it will be $2700 per month.
          This is not the main point of the post or your comment, but just want to inject some on-the-ground facts about the accessibility and the cost.

          1. Anon for this, colleagues read here*

            Yeah, I was paying $900/month for infant care in 2000.

        3. Hannah Lee*

          This guy right now is operating very close to the “this is why we can’t have nice things” zone.

          Yes, the company may have some flexibility in allowing kids to occasionally be on the scene in child care emergencies.
          And yes, some positions in the company may be structured such that a small child being around doesn’t completely derail the work, or create such a safety hazard that it’s a no-go.

          But this one guy is leveraging those two things to regularly have his kid around when working (on video meetings or in the office) And at some point when it does cause an issue bigger than distracting people during their workday, the flexibility may be gone for everyone who works there. Not to mention, if other employees get more and more resentful of his use of his (their) workplace as a way to handle child care, it may lead to people leaving more readily than they would otherwise.

          It’s like a few years back, at my job, the small company provided free coffee, hot cocoa, tea to all employees. One particular person got into the habit of making a quattro-something with all the fixin’s every morning and every afternoon. Which technically was allowed.

          But his habit single-handedly doubled the coffee service expense for the entire company, to the point that when there was a little dip in revenue and management was looking of ways to cut costs, the free coffee was one of the first things to go. It just came back again this week. Fortunately that Quattro-Quattro dude no longer works here, so hopefully it will be around for a while.

          1. All Het Up About It*

            These are good points. And related to the “What if everyone did this?” question.

            Because I’ve seen this sort of slow erosion of the norms in the office until everyone or at least enough of everyone is doing it (whatever “it” is) that a higher up suddenly notices and the hammer comes down and the original flexibility is gone now too.

            Ask me if I’m bitter about losing the comfy lunchtime napping couch in the never used by clients relaxation room because one person couldn’t be chill about it. Instead they dragged their blanket and pillow through the entire office to the room, in front of the CEO, making it quite obvious they were going to SLEEP instead of just going to quietly “read” during their lunch break. “And this is why we can’t have nice things.”

            1. CoinPurse*

              Some people are morale killers. They ruin things for everyone. At my last no WFH job pre-Covid, 2 people on my team schemed a way to work from home and not get caught. They started once in a while but worked up to 3 days a week WFH. People would say how do you know…well, I sat across from the empty desk. When people had urgent face to face needs, I ended up having to cover while these folks WFH.

              One day 3 emergencies came in at once. 2 for the people who were WFH. I walked them to the manager. Once she saw the empty desks, the WFH came to an ass grinding halt.

      2. AnonInCanada*

        You make a perfectly valid point. Nonetheless, it’s still not OP’s circus to ringmaster. If it gets to the point where employee morale drops as a result of the continued presence of co-worker’s toddler in the office or on Zoom calls, then I may make a point of mentioning this in verbiage much like yours to HR or your boss, but maybe without the passive aggressive snark.

      3. jasmine*

        IMO no one should be dinged for kids on Zoom calls, so long as the kids aren’t being disruptive. The office is another story though.

        1. Samwise*

          Depends on what’s going on in the call, who’s attending.

          For instance, if I’m meeting with a student to discuss their academic standing/ suspension, no one else should be in earshot. Or see-able either. There’s an expectation of privacy.

          If I’m doing my annual review with my boss, no kid.

          If I’m attending a meeting with the dean and other high mucky-mucks, no kid.

          If I’m aware enough to see that a colleague is annoyed by it, no kid.

          I used to bring my kid to the office when backup childcare fell through. It was rare. And I made sure that the kid was not in any way disruptive; and I didn’t ask anyone else to keep an eye on him either.

      4. Jennifer Strange*

        Seeing another coworker getting a perk that you do not get effects morale overall.

        But that’s always going to be the case for different jobs. Some people have jobs that allow for different perks (WFH, flexible start time, travel, etc.)

    4. AnonInCanada*

      Agreed. This isn’t your circus to ringmaster, OP. Let your boss, his boss, or HR handle it if the co-worker’s child is causing a disruption in the workplace. I’m sure they’ve already witnessed it, and maybe they’ve already talked to him about it and a plan is being put in place to get childcare for the toddler. You don’t know what’s going on, so I say MYOB.

    5. Qwerty*

      I think it is worth a conversation with the manager. If Alison’s script would be seen as overstepping (depends on the relationship with the manager), then focus on the ways it impacts OP’s work (distraction during Zoom meetings, whatever small disruption is in the office).

      Having worked with a lot of higher ups, I could easily see management’s view being “no one is complaining so it isn’t a problem”. Morale stuff like this is awkward – if OP isn’t the only one annoyed by this, it could fester into a bigger problem. Or maybe management is totally ok with bringing children on site and OP could be taking advantage of that “perk”, which may reduce/eliminate their negative feelings about this.

      1. Anon parent*

        Possibly management would be OK with OP and others doing this, but OP does not want to do it. This is actually the case for me. It doesn’t bother me because I know I could in theory do it too, but I don’t in fact do it.

    6. Turquoisecow*

      And since OP is not HR or this person’s boss, there could be some other issues that mean this is the best option for the coworker and his kid. Maybe they’ve talked it through in great detail with the boss and agreed that this is the best situation for them – OP wouldn’t know that just like OP wouldn’t know if a coworker has a medical accommodation to wear sneakers in the office.

      If the work isn’t being affected and this is just OP being annoyed by the presence of a child then there’s no way to bring it up without seeming anti-kid or anti-parents. If the work is being affected then OP should approach it from that angle, but it doesn’t sound like it.

      1. Some words*

        The LW is a parent, so the anti-kid accusation doesn’t really stick.

        Employees who are parents are required to have child care, except (apparently) for this one employee. I’m a little surprised by so many people saying “no biggie, myob”. I really believe if it was a woman doing this the reaction would be different. It’s inherently unfair to all the other parents taking on the onus of childcare hassles and (often) expense.

        1. Observer*

          I’m a little surprised by so many people saying “no biggie, myob”.

          I think that the reason that people are reacting like this is because the (very real) issue of how a woman would be seen vs a man does not seem to be top of mind for the OP. They seem to be more annoyed by the fact that his job does legitimately have more flexibility around this issue (eg ability to work from home 50% of the time vs others that need to be in the office 80% of the time) than the difference in perception.

          I totally get the issue of cost. It stinks, btdt. But it doesn’t help to complain that “I have to pay for child care, so you should also have to” when there is no genuine problem at play.

        2. BadCultureFit*

          Thanks for saying this. If it were a woman doing this, this board would likely be responding very differently.

        3. Lenora Rose*

          This is why I want to know how often “More than once in a blue moon” is. How often is the child on zoom (and is this because child care isn’t there or because Dad is lax?), how often is the child in the office? My answer is very different if this is a case of “caregiver is there but it’s not physically possible to completely isolate Dad’s home workspace, plus caregiver had the flu recently so the child was in for 3 days in a row but that’s not typical”, vs “caregiver is away at least one day every single week and Dad just thinks he doesn’t need an alternative coverage ever”.

    7. Jade*

      Agree x 100. If it’s not affecting OP, stay out of it. Nothing good will come if it.

  2. cabbagepants*

    Even if there is a child care shortage, I think it’s still a reasonable conversation. In my area, the effect of the shortage is long wait lists to get care, and the way parents (like me) have had to work with that is by getting on multiple waitlists. So it could be reasonable for the employees manager to require he get on some waitlists.

    Besides work distraction, I think it’s reasonable to highlight safety concerns about having a child at your office. Your office probably isn’t kid-proof and 3 is an age where kids are very mobile but still pretty reckless.

    1. Melissa*

      I agree with this. Also, the child is a toddler and this issue has been going on since they were born. There are no places in the US where all childcare (including all licensed centers and all nannies and all babysitters) have been totally unavailable for 3 years.

      1. Random Dice*

        Maybe not for 3 years but a big chunk of that.

        Childcare is underpaid, highly regulated and so requires extensive training and certification, and – being real – often fairly exploitational of women. It’s one of those careers that people are nope-ing out of post pandemic, like fast food.

        I’m not saying it’s impossible to find, but we are still not back in the Old Days, not remotely.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      I would say bring it up if you have a work concern or a safety concern. Like, if part of Bob’s on site work involves going to the server room or storage area or somewhere else where the kid could possibly be injured, that’s worth mentioning.

      1. AnonInCanada*

        Or better yet: who would be liable in a situation whereby the toddler gets injured while in the office? That in itself should raise Spockian eyebrows at HR to tell the coworker the kid’s not welcome in the office.

        1. I AM a Lawyer*

          Yeah, we don’t allow toddlers in the office (for more than a few minute,s anyway) because of liability issues.

      2. Cat Tree*

        A young three-year-old could still be a big risk around normal office things like thumbtacks and electrical outlets.

        1. allathian*

          Indeed. Offices aren’t generally designed to be toddler safe because most of the time everyone who is there is an adult, or at the very least an older teenager.

        2. misspiggy*

          Or just people. I have mobility and coordination issues of a fairly common type, and have hurt toddlers when they ran past unexpectedly, I staggered, and we all fell. Not a good work scenario for anyone.

    3. ferrina*

      The kid’s age may end up bringing an end to this. There’s a big difference between bringing and infant to work and a 3yo to work. A bored toddler can wreak a lot of havoc. All it takes is 5 minutes unsupervised with the permanent markers, and I think we’ll see action taken.

      1. CityMouse*

        My kid could really easily get into things at 2. he found ALL the flaws in our baby proofing. As a parent there is just no way I’d want a kid under office desks where he could get wire/cables around his neck.

        1. Lydia*

          My 2.5 year old niece just spent the weekend at my house WITH HER PARENTS and my husband and I were both exhausted by the amount of everything she was into. Up the stairs, down the stairs, find the kitty, run across the room, go to the basement, come upstairs. If this guy is getting any work done, I would be shocked.

          1. lucanus cervus*

            Yeah, 2-3 in my experience is THE most full-on age – they can physically do more or less whatever they want and are wildly curious, but still have near zero impulse control and can’t really be reasoned with. It was like shadowing a tiny drunk bent on self-destruction.

            1. WantonSeedStitch*

              THIS. My son is 2.5, and he’s fully capable of huge amounts of destruction (and self-destruction), and has close to no impulse control. If a child that age is in the office with a parent, then either that parent is doing ZERO work, or the child is in danger.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        In my old job, when there were disruptive kids in the office, they were elementary school aged, and their parent was HR. So. Needless to say, no action was taken.

        Other folks who brought their kids in for emergencies once in a while figured out how to keep them relatively entertained.

    4. Spero*

      My last two workplaces have both created rules allowing infants under 6 months to accompany parents to the workplace due to childcare enrollment waitlists. I definitely took advantage of that 2-3 days a week and it was a tremendous help. I ended up needing to extend to 8 months due to waitlists and was approved for that, and even in those extra two months there was a lot more hands on time with kiddo that made working hard. Now that my kiddo is a toddler the few times she’s had to come in with me are just incredibly disruptive and I can’t imagine that being regular practice. On the other hand one of my reports has a middle schooler who was briefly suspended and she brought her in to sit in a chair in the corner of the office on those days – that was not disruptive and as an emergency accommodation I was perfectly fine with it.

      So I’m on the side of early infancy time for waitlists yes, regular practice for older no but rare (under 5 days a year) emergencies sure.

      1. Sal*

        Wow, this waitlist thing should be a thing everywhere parents have to go back to work earlier than is reasonable.

    5. bureaucratte*

      But he HAS childcare. It just appears to be less reliable than daycare (I bet it’s not actually less reliable given daycare exclusion rules for sickness but that it appears less reliable because of how he’s handling the gaps). I don’t think a workplace can mandate specifically daycare!

      1. Lydia*

        I think an employer can say the way their handling the gaps isn’t a great long-term solution and he should start making other arrangements. Or limiting the number of days he can bring in the kid, which could create a situation where he has to find other, more reliable, arrangements.

      2. Event coordinator?*

        I’m not entirely convinced he has real childcare. If he needs to be in the office 50% of the time, and he always has his kid in tow, and the child regularly appears in zoom calls, when is he actually not caring for the child himself? I’m trying to assume truth and positive intent here, but there are holes in his story.

        1. cabbagepants*

          I agree, the way the letter is written it sounds like the child is in the office several days a week.

          The situation would be totally different if it were only a few times a year.

        2. Lenora Rose*

          It doesn’t actually say he always does. It’s how I first read it, but the more times I reread, the less sure I was that this is an “always” situation. because elsewhere it’s described as “more than once in a blue moon” but there’s a lot of slack between those descriptions. My impression is “Way more often than is normally acceptable or warranted” regardless, but I would love hard numbers.

      3. Kim*

        No, but a workplace CAN mandate that childcare is available in a reliable way. If the family member regularly cancels at the last minute, is sick, plays hooky or whatever reason they can’t provide childcare, than the co-worker needs to find a different childcare option.

    6. IDIC believer*

      I might not complain about a coworker taking care of their child while WFH, but definitely would if child(ren) were permitted in the office. Offices have enough noise and activity without adding the disruption caused by a child. If I need to consult with my coworker, I don’t want their child’s presence to impact my time/work. If a task pops up, I don’t want it assigned to me because my coworker is dealing with their child. I really don’t want to hear crying, whining, or a parent repeatedly admonishing the child.

      I love kids, but I don’t want to work with or around them. I don’t think a parent’s childcare need should be given more weight than other employee’s need for an office atmosphere conducive to productivity. It would be a deal breaker for me which I would make clear to my employer. My employer can decide policy, and if I disagree I’ll move on elsewhere.

      1. Zee*

        Yeah, I question if the disruption is actually “fairly limited” or if it’s just fairly limited to the OP. It may be having a bigger impact on other employees that they’re not seeing. People who have kids of their own also tend to build up a sort of tolerance to it and don’t realize that a child is actually being incredibly disruptive when it’s the same as the everyday background noise of their life.

  3. Jayri*

    My first thought is that if you have legit work concerns talk to your manager.

    Otherwise is it just that you don’t think it’s fair? He may have (and likely has) already made arrangements with his manager. And there is probably more to the story than you are seeing. We still have a huge childcare shortage here and did before Covid. Most places have a 2-3 year waiting list. Perhaps the child has a medical condition that OP knows nothing about so needs a different type of care than can be provided in a typical child care setting. Perhaps they are already on a waiting list and this will be short term.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      One of the best things I came to terms with at work is that sometimes things *are* unfair. Unless it’s affecting you directly, sometimes you should just assume that your colleague has an agreement with their manager to do whatever it is that’s bugging you. You don’t have to *like* that it’s unfair, but it’s helpful to reframe it as “I hope if I was in whatever position he’s in, I would benefit from the same flexibility.”

      It’s just not worth expending energy on if it’s not affecting your work, and if it *is* affecting your work, then, as you said, you have a legitimate concern to bring to your boss that you can backup with examples.

      1. rayray*

        Exactly how I feel. Some people may require certain accommodations. If they have worked things out with their manager and/or HR, that’s all that matters. There may be things that appear unfair, but you may not know exactly what someone is going through. We have a couple people in my office on specialized schedules due to personal circumstances and while I would like to have the same, I don’t need it. These people do.

        If this person’s manager has a problem, it’s their job to raise the issue, not coworkers or observers. If you want the same accommodations, speak to your manager or HR and see what you can work out.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          Yes, exactly. Your reaction should be “How can I get the same accommodations if I need them?” not “This person shouldn’t have them, because I don’t.”

          1. yala*

            That was kind of my thought. If the issue is that parents of young kids have a problem that this particular parent doesn’t, the solution isn’t to give him that problem as well. It’s to find a way to accommodate the other parents.

      2. She of Many Hats*

        I think the optics *are* important in these situations because so much of the childcare remains the responsibility of women and they are the ones who usually have to take time away from work when outside childcare isn’t available and it directly and indirectly impacts their day-to-day jobs and career paths. Seeing a man allowed to bring an even well-behaved child to the office semi-regularly without penalty or comment really does disturb those parents who can’t make or have to reschedule deadlines/deliverables or meetings using VTO when childcare fails them.

      3. Observer*

        It’s just not worth expending energy on if it’s not affecting your work, and if it *is* affecting your work, then, as you said, you have a legitimate concern to bring to your boss that you can backup with examples.

        So much this.

      4. Hannah Lee*

        The “same flexibility” angle might be one LW could use if they feel it does need to be raised somehow.

        Like “I noticed sometimes Ed has his kid with him in the office. I’ve always understood that the policy was you had to have childcare, but maybe I misunderstood.
        Is bringing my child to work with me / into my home workspace something I could do too if I needed to if my childcare fell through?”

      5. yala*

        I’m reminded of a recent Craig of the Creek episode with the hit song: “Mind Your Business.”

      6. sundae funday*

        Yeah… I got advice from a friend of mine that I’ve been trying to implement… Don’t worry about what others get. Look at your own position. Ask yourself, am I being fairly compensated? Does my salary reflect my role? Are there perks that would be really helpful to me that aren’t in place but that I could suggest?

        If you feel that twinge of “it’s not fair,” is there a way to make it fair that doesn’t involve ratting out your coworker and feeling like a tattle tale?

        1. Spiderwort*

          Kinda disagree here. Fairness has a component of comparability to it. Definitely wouldn’t say I was getting a fair deal if I knew that others in my position were getting a much better bargain. Manage your own career – sure. Always let it go if you’re not given the same opportunities- not so much.

      7. GammaGirl1908*

        It doesn’t apply to this situation, but it’s perfectly normal that some people get to use certain perks that others don’t. It’s less that it’s unfair, and more that different circumstances apply to different employees. The example used in another letter was a school where employees’ children got free tuition. Employees without children are not entitled to cash in lieu of tuition; they just don’t get that benefit.

    2. AD*

      I agree, and OP’s reference to “While the disruption that this situation causes is fairly limited” is rather vague. Is this causing disruption, or are you more bothered by the optics? And are there details that this colleague has shared with their own manager about the situation that you’re not privy to (for good reason)?

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        This is my question too, or rather what I hope OP can expand on.
        Is “the disruption…fairly limited” or is OP really impacted by having a child in meetings and in the workplace but afraid to be the one to bring it up because everyone else seems to think it’s fine?

        1. Allonge*

          Fairly limited could mean ‘well, we never had to cancel a client meeting because of this’. Fairly is not a word I would use if my meaning was ‘actually very limited’.

    3. bunniferous*

      What I am thinking is it is probably way harder to get occasional child care than ongoing….what I mean by that is if the family member does the lion’s share of the child care it is harder to get someone to fill in the other times than it would be to have permanent regular child care.

      I think if I were in OP’s shoes….I would simply mind my own business. As soon as the child is school age the problem will be moot anyway for the most part, and if there is an issue now, the coworker’s boss should be the one to point that out and deal with it. As to fairness, I think most folks would genuinely not rather bring their kid in if they didn’t have to, so case by case basis is probably the best way to go.

      1. Samwise*

        The kid is a toddler. School age is 3-4 years away. That’s a long time to put up with even a fairly limited disruption.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Actually, it sounds like school age is 1-2 years away? Even at 4 many kids go to pre-school.

    4. BaskingInMyWindowlessOffice*

      This is where I sit too. Sometimes things are unfair and not all unfairness is on the employer to solve.

      Also daycares aren’t a fix all. When my kids were home with a nanny, sick maybe twice a year. Kids started pre school, sick on average twice a month.

      1. Sara*

        This. This idea that having a daycare spot means you have reliable childcare every day is laughable to me. I miss way more work (or WFH w sick kid) due to my kid being sick or getting me sick than when she was a baby and we had a nanny.

        That being said, I do think everyone should be allowed to WFH with a sick kid as needed, if their job description allows for it. If that’s a perk only offered to this one guy, I would say advocate for that to be more widely available rather than taking it away from him.

    5. Indigo a la mode*

      As someone who has always had a real internal need for justice, I’ve definitely found myself in positions like OP’s, where someone else is living/working differently and they aren’t doing anything wrong but man, I wish I had that perk. For example, I worked with another young woman two weeks younger than me, making a similar salary, but she lived with her parents while mine were two states away. Purely by virtue of that, she was easily netting $15k more a year than me and therefore was able to do lots of cool events and travel. Obviously this isn’t an injustice – we both made life decisions that happened to create that disparity – but it’s easy to be envious of others’ circumstances.

      Basically: I feel you, OP, and I feel the unfairness, but I realy like the framing in this thread about trying to get the perk for yourself if you want, rather than quashing his good deal because of the optics.

      1. Skytext*

        I don’t think that’s a fair comparison, because the employer isn’t the one creating or allowing the disparity. A more fitting comparison would be you and your coworker are fairly equal in everything: years at the company, age, experience, job responsibilities, and living situation, but she gets paid $15,000 a year more than you for no apparent reason. Still think it’s fair?

        1. Michelle Smith*

          For no apparent reason? You’re not actually entitled to know the reasons why there are certain disparities. I worked from home for a full year longer than any of my colleagues because of disability accommodations. They weren’t entitled to know the reasons behind my seeming perk, but it was still very much fair even though it was unequal.

          Your suggested comparison also falls apart when you consider that the different pay here is not because the employer is actually paying more. It’s about how the money is spent. It’s more “you and your coworker are fairly equal in everything: years at the company, age, experience, job responsibilities, and living situation, but she has $15,000 more in disposable income because her mom provides in home child care.” If I don’t have children and you do, or if I have to pay childcare for one child and you pay childcare for 3 kids, that doesn’t mean the employer should be paying you more than me to make up for the difference.

  4. Dover*

    This sounds incredibly disruptive. I love the occasional kid or pet popping into a call or office, but if it’s happening frequently, that’s gotta sap productivity. Seems like a simple ‘hey, this is disruptive’ email to the boss would be in order and let them handle it.

    1. Three Flowers*

      This. A lot of the comments are taking a “well, if it’s not reeeeeally affecting your work, stay out of it” approach. But a three-year-old *in the office all day* is inherently disruptive and distracting, and it’s quite reasonable for coworkers to resent 1) the distraction and 2) the obvious fact that the parent is only half-present at work. LW seems hung up on the freebie childcare angle, but that’s not the actual problem. If the kid is there more than once a quarter or in truly extraordinary circumstances, this should have been nipped in the bud as soon as it began by HR or LW’s manager.

      1. ferrina*

        I’m a former daycare worker, and I can’t not pay attention to a small child in my vicinity. Years of needing to be hyperaware of children around me means that I can’t turn that off. If there is a kid around, I’m mentally keeping tabs on them and making sure their environment is safe. This would be really distracting for me.

        1. Anonomite*

          I am the oldest of 6 so the idea I could just not be tuned into a toddler is laughable. I don’t even have kids and I have to make a conscious effort to let my siblings deal with their toddlers without getting involved. If you spent a significant portion of your life surrounded by babies and/or toddlers, you have been trained to keep an eye out for any trouble and it’s not easy to switch it off.

      2. yala*

        Depends on the kind of three-year-old.

        My Dad’s a lawyer, and sometimes he would take me to the office when I was a little wee one. I was usually content to sit on the couch and pretend to read his Far Side books (at one point, I think we even had a tiny black and white TV, because I have vague memories of watching Pee-Wee’s Playhouse on it. Very quietly).

        Not all three-year-olds are going to be chill, and even the chill ones will have unchill days because they’re kids. But it’s not inherently disruptive.

        It’s like a lot of other issues that come up here. IF [Situation] is negatively impacting coworkers [distracting them, increasing their workload, making up other people’s shifts, etc] or negatively impacting [Situation Doer]’s output in quality or quantity, then that needs to be addressed.

        But if it *isn’t* well…

    2. Ash*

      OP literally said “the disruption is fairly limited.” So not at all “incredibly” disruptive.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I wonder OP’s threshold for disruptive. OP is unhappy about this situation. OP does not mention other people being annoyed by this, talking about this. I wonder how much OP is tempering his/her annoyance because “if no one else is speaking up, maybe I’m overreacting.”

          1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

            I think if we’re meant to take the LW at their word when they describe things like the childcare arrangement, that means we take them at their word and agree this isn’t a major disruption.

        2. SaladEater*

          I wonder if this should also be looked at as a safety or insurance issue. Setting aside everything else, workplaces tend not to be designed with toddlers in mind. If the child gets injured, or causes others to be injured (leaving toys where they can be tripping hazards, etc), I would be concerned that insurance could deny the claim.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Sure but I don’t think the company’s insurance liability is LW’s concern or purview based on this letter.

      1. xylocopa*

        Then again, “fairly limited” covers a lot of ground. I could see myself using it when I’m trying to be as charitable as possible and I’m not completely unable to do work or right on the verge of completely losing it….but that’s still pretty disruptive.

        I just got back from a work situation where I ended up needing to provide impromptu entertainment for unexpected toddlers. The disruption was fairly limited, in that I was able to do the specific tasks I needed to do, but it made for a pretty wild and stressful morning.

        1. Quite anon*

          Yeah, to me, disruptions are fairly limited as long as I can still get stuff done for the day, whether they’re causing me significant stress or making me feel burnt out or not. Significant disruptions are for things like someone tying up the helpdesk phone lines for an hour complaining about their urgent request that needs to be done now while refusing to tell you what the urgent request is for.

        2. goducks*

          Yes, I’d say a coworker having a kid in the office was a “fairly limited” disruption even if it meant that meetings had to happen differently, and the parent spent the day cloistered when they usually were readily available, and everybody had to be constantly aware that a small child was around and watch their language, etc. I wouldn’t classify it as pretty disruptive unless the kid was running around screaming and destroying stuff. But the “fairly limited” disruption would be pretty disruptive to me.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            One of my previous bosses made a habit of bringing her kids to work if their daycare or school was closed for a holiday we didn’t observe. While her oldest was a quiet kid, she would bring her to team meetings and then keep the door of her office shut the entire day while kid was there. So yeah, it was a fairly limited disruption, but it was still disruptive.

            She would also bring them in if they were sick and get everyone on our hallway sick too.

        3. BethDH*

          I have said this kind of thing about disruptions that are each small but collectively add stress or get in the way. It can be hard to draw the line between “I’d be fine working around this once a month” and “he’s doing this twice a week and now I’m annoyed.”
          This one has lots of parallels for me with the OP who got lots of small requests for onsite work on behalf of colleagues.

      2. rayray*

        Yeah, and things can vary wildly with young kids. Some kids are really good to sit with toys, books, coloring, etc while others can’t sit still or focused for more than a few minutes. I had a coworker once who would occasionally babysit grandkids while at work, and she’d just closer her office door and work while the kid would sit and play with toys.

      3. Kim*

        the disruption is limited *for OP*. A manager should handle this, but if my co-worker had to take care of their child during the day I am assuming they won’t be able to finish nearly as much work as they would’ve been able to without their child present.
        So I would also add the angle of: how much is my workload affected by his lack of reliable child care?

        My 2 year old is unable to just sit quietly by himself for more than 15 minutes, let alone 4 hours, then lunch, then another 4 hours.

    3. Cacofonix*

      *Any* kid popping up in a zoom or office environment where kids and pets aren’t clients or part of the business is disruptive and I personally despise it on every level, and I judge. However, I always gladly adjust meeting times to fit daycare and school pick ups and drop offs, extra long lunches or breaks to deal with home life. AITA? Sure. I’m not a fan of kids in a business environment and this from someone who spent years coaching kid athletes. But if you are going to be present, be present. Your kid does not make you present. Ever. To the parent who does their best, is an otherwise good employee and has the occasional moment, stuff happens to all of us, I get it, grace bestowed. But regularly, oh heck no.

  5. Caramel & Cheddar*

    I think there also needs to be some consideration given to the fact that even if there *isn’t* a childcare shortage in the area, that really may not matter. In my area, there’s almost nowhere that is going to take a child once in a blue moon on short notice if your childcare falls through. Heck, even if this guy had his kid in an outside-the-home daycare, day cares can close at a moment’s notice due to gas leaks or flooding or any number of things; sh*t happens.

    I do bristle at the idea that not having children means you enjoy a “$10k-18k” perk. “You don’t have the same line items in your household budget that I do” is not how perks work.

    1. Magpie*

      They’re not saying that child free employees are receiving a $10k-$18k perk. They’re saying that about people with children who are choosing to forego outside child care and care for their children while working.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        No, I’m aware they don’t mean it’s a literal perk on top of salary (that is, $60k salary plus another $10-18k on top of that). I’m saying that being in a position to not spend $10-18k on childcare has absolutely nothing to do with the LW and doesn’t magically make money from their *salary* a sudden perk. We’ve covered this topic in all sorts of other areas on this site: your salary is related to the work that you do, not your life expenses.

        1. Magpie*

          Lots of companies offer non-monetary perks that result in extra money in the employee’s pocket. If a company offers free breakfast and lunch, or free coffee, or free gym memberships, those are things the employee doesn’t have to pay for with their salary which results in extra money for other things. It’s true that not everyone will have use for a free gym membership or want to eat the free food in which case the perk doesn’t help those employees as much, but these are all pretty standard things that are considered “perks”. Having the flexibility in your job to avoid paying for childcare is definitely similar and I would consider it a perk as well.

        2. lucanus cervus*

          I don’t think that’s quite it. I think the sticking point is that this guy’s approach to childcare only works because he’s the only one doing it. If half the company brought their kids in on any given day, the disruption would go from minor to major. So all these parents are spending serious money on making sure their kids don’t disrupt work – except this one guy, who just doesn’t worry about it. It must feel like all the other parents are subsidising his unreliable childcare. So it’s not about the cost to him per se – if his childcare was free but more reliable, no one would know or care. It’s about the relative lack of effort he appears to be putting into juggling the two responsibilities.

          And I honestly don’t think LW is even thinking about people who don’t have children. ‘Avoiding daycare fees’ is only a perk if you have a kid who could or possibly should be in daycare.

      2. Arya*

        I think OP’s point is that this person’s role makes it possible for him to bring his kid into work sometimes. The work is such that he can have a kid around. But that’s not possible in all jobs at the company (like if you’re working with clients all day or handling heavy machinery in a warehouse, for example). So while I agree the perk language isn’t exactly accurate, it’s more about how the nature of the role makes it possible for him to forego what would otherwise be a very large expense when other parents don’t have that luxury due to the nature of their work.

        1. i like hound dogs*

          Yeah. I have a kid and I’d be salty if I were spending 15k a year on childcare because that’s the professional norm and Fred from accounting just has his toddler around and therefore gets to pocket that cash.

          But I probably wouldn’t say anything because it’s not my business.

          1. goducks*

            I think for me the saltiness would be less about him not paying for childcare (some people have free childcare arrangements), but that every time his childcare falls through he just brings his kid to work when the rest of us would have to burn a PTO day to cover our lack of childcare because our job isn’t conducive to kids in the workplace.

            1. Betty*

              I think that’s also the place where the OP *does* have standing to raise this– not that Wakeen shouldn’t be allowed to do this, but how can the company be *inclusive* with this policy so that everyone is also able to benefit. Can everyone bring a kid to work/work remotely if childcare falls through? (e.g., almost every daycare has a “24 hours without symptoms” rule about coming back after an illness, where your kid isn’t actively sick but also can’t be at daycare) Can the company have more generous/flexible sick leave policies? (For instance, my company has incredibly generous sick leave (effectively unlimited), AND we can take it for dependent care as well as our own illnesses.)

              1. Hanani*

                Yes, this is precisely what I want to highlight! I’m someone who tends to live their life on the “what if everyone did it?” principle, so that part of me is frustrated with OP’s coworker. I also recognizes that our social structures are fundamentally inhumane and that many people (including potentially me) may need extra support at various times that doesn’t all even out. My answer is for the benefit to be inclusive of all employees.

                My own office is this way. I’m sometimes frustrated by the fact that certain colleagues (with young children) don’t take their equal turn on unpleasant tasks that we rotate because kids are sick, kids need something, spouse is sick and someone needs to watch the kids. But I can also beg off the task and no one will question me about that (the task does need to happen, so everyone can’t beg off 100% of the time). The result is that I do a bit more than my share, and I know that I have the flexibility to say no or to skip a couple rounds when needed. I’ll take that bargain.

        2. Gherkin*

          There are many reasons why someone might be able to forgo the very large expense of childcare. Life is unfair, especially when you have kids. I think this should not be what drives whether or not the kid can come into work.

        3. Caramel & Cheddar*

          Except he’s not forgoing full-time childcare! This happens when his childcare falls through. The LW is conflating the cost of annual, full-time childcare in their area with this guy bringing in his kid periodically. Would this behaviour be more acceptable if he *was* paying for full time, sometimes unreliable childcare? My feeling is no, probably not, and I don’t think Alison’s advice would be different.

      3. Colette*

        And they are getting that perk because the employer is letting them bring the child to work, which others aren’t able to do.

      4. AngryOctopus*

        But this person isn’t opting to forego childcare to save money while they take care of their child at home. They have childcare that unfortunately has been spottier than usual. They’re filling the gaps as best they can–as said above, no daycare takes a child on a day by day basis.

        OP, you have to focus on the impact, if there is any, on your work. Otherwise, you have to let it go for yourself. I know it’s unsatisfying, and you might feel like your coworker is getting away with something, but I guess I come down on trusting that everyone is trying to do their best, and you don’t know what kind of arrangement they (or anyone) has with their manager.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I think that is speculation. Nobody knows if the employee ever looked for childcare, is not able to afford what he could find or just never investigated after Covid because he wasn’t explicitly told, “you need to find reliable child care now.”
          Was everyone else told this, or did they just assume, oh, now that my daycare is open I must put my child back in. Did anybody think like he did, “I’m not doing daycare again. I’ll bring kid with me.”

          1. Gherkin*

            “Nobody knows if the employee ever looked for childcare”

            The employee has childcare. This isn’t about someone forgoing childcare. This is about an employee working while watching their kid when their childcare is not available. This is not a problem that can be solved by using external daycare bc sometimes daycares close or kids get sent home.

            1. suomynona*

              It is really frustrating that everyone is missing (ignoring?) the fact that he does have childcare and just brings his kid when it is not available

              1. i like hound dogs*

                Not ignoring, it says: “And on days my colleague is required to come into the office, he brings his toddler to work.”

                I guess I’m unclear on how many days that is? But I definitely read it as he brings the toddler to the office any day that he’s in. That’s … not really having childcare.

                1. suomynona*

                  I read that as Hlao-roo below did . . . .

                  June 6, 2023 at 11:34 am
                  I don’t read it that way. OP wrote:

                  “My issue is that my colleague’s family member is sometimes unavailable. And on days my colleague is required to come into the office, he brings his toddler to work.”

                  There are two separate sentences there, and I read them as “When the family member is unavailable on a day when my colleague is required in the office, he brings in toddler to the office.” Not that he brings the kid in on every in-office day, just the in-office days when the family member is unavailable. Especially because in the next paragraph, the OP says this is becoming more than a once-in-a-blue moon phenomenon which implies to me that it is still not an all-the-time phenomenon.

                2. fhqwhgads*

                  I think it all depends on the frequency. If once a week the childcare falls through and he brings kid to the office…he doesn’t have a reliable childcare option at all. If this happens once a quarter, he does and shit happens. I’m not sure where exactly the line crosses from one to the other, but OP made it pretty clear it’s not “once in a blue moon”, which suggests to me it’s more frequent than quarterly, but how much? We don’t know. And how reasonable/unreasonable this is is very much dependent on how much.

        2. Little Beans*

          There ARE daycares where you can make emergency arrangements to have them be a backup on day to day basis.

      5. goducks*

        The monetary perk is this parent vs. other parents at the company. He is allowed to have sub-optimal care when others wouldn’t be allowed to have it. He can save money by having a “most of the time” free childcare situation, when the rest of the staff is required to have an “all of the time” childcare situation, which is typically an expensive situation. Employees who are required to have an “all of the time” situation are given little leeway when something goes wrong, and are expected to find a new solution if their current solution becomes less reliable. That’s the perk this guy is getting.

    2. Not A Manager*

      The perk the OP is referring to is being ALLOWED to juggle the child and the job, when other people aren’t allowed to. There might be good business reasons for that disparity, or, as OP wonders, some demographics might get more of a pass than others, but it’s true that if your job specifically enables you to avoid childcare costs, that’s a perk that some other people aren’t getting.

    3. Bridget*

      I read the comment about the 10-18 k perk not being about childless employees vs employees with children, but rather a “perk” of employees who have children who don’t have the daycare cost because a family member is helping (therefore, not needing the cost of daycare in their budget), and when that family member cannot watch them, they don’t pay or outsource a different childcare option. Where I live, daycare is upwards of 25k per year – and so I would view it as a perk for someone in my area (who also has kids) who does not have to pay that cost on an annual basis to bring their child in on a day when their family member isn’t able to help out.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        That’s exactly how I read it too; my point was that people getting to spend their salary differently than you isn’t a perk or even a “perk”, it’s just life.

      2. ferrina*

        The perk isn’t being calculated the right way. LW is calculating it as cost-savings from year-round care, but most of the time, the kid is with the family member. So LW is calculating the cost of….having a family member who watches the kid? That’s not something that the company should be involved in.

        The real perk is that the coworker is bringing the kid in instead of taking PTO. When my kids childcare is closed, I’m taking that day off. If I have a flexible schedule, I might do some bizarre working hours to fit a full day in or only take off a half day. Back-up care is extremely hard to find regardless of what your primary care is.

        1. ferrina*

          Should add that I agree with other commentors that calculating a perk by take-home pay and/or life circumstances is the wrong way to go about it. Different perks will be of more/less use to different people. The point isn’t to ensure that everyone has an exact dollar-to-dollar match on all possible benefits and/or punish/reward people for having different life circumstances and/or dictate what is a choice and what is not.

        2. suomynona*

          It is also entirely possible that coworker has spoken to their manager when their childcare is unavailable and asked if they should take PTO or work with the kid and their manager prefers them to work.
          I just don’t feel like it is letter writer’s place to insert themselves unless it is effecting their own work (not just annoying them because of some perceived “inequity”)

          1. fhqwhgads*

            Well, no. If everyone female asking for the same accommodation gets a no, and this dude gets a yes, it’s not “some perceived inequity”. It’s a foundation for a claim of discrimination based on sex. The yes being only one person probably would make it tricky, but it doesn’t need to be “you will definitely lose a lawsuit” level to be worth raising. We don’t know the genders of anyone but the one the letter is asking about, but it’s not odd to be concerned about this.

      3. IrishGirl*

        Some people pay their family members for taking care of their children. I had a coworker who paid their parent to “nanny” their 2 children as she quit her job to do so. We dont know what family member is taking care of the child. It could be anyone including a spouse who doesnt work, which in itself is forgoing a whole seperate pay check.

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

        But we dont know if the childcare is free. Just because it’s a family member (because the OP says its not the partner) doesn’t mean that its free. People will pay their sister or cousin, etc to take care of their child, especially if its more of a full time thing.

    4. Curious*

      “I do bristle at the idea that not having children means you enjoy a “$10k-18k” perk. ”

      As a single person with no children, this wording makes me bristle too. I feel it adds to the perception that far too many people have that not having children means you can engage in frivolous spending because you don’t have “real” obligations. My wording may clumsy. I will answer questions.

      1. Victoria Everglot*

        Clearly, all childless people go home each day and swim through their riches, Scrooge McDuck style.

        1. Interesting*

          Yes, but it is about what monies are perceived to be available to your household if you don’t have “responsibility X” you have to pay for. The coworker is bringing his kid to work and on Zoom calls (saving/not spending money)… but the rest of us are paying for child care (Responsibility X).

          “Responsibility X” is not limited to children or child care.

    5. Don't let The Man divide us!*

      I think one thing that’s irksome about the “$10k-18k perk” phrasing is that it sort of implies that the company is giving him something that’s worth that much money. But even if that’s an accurate measure of how valuable the flexibility is to the employee, it almost certainly isn’t an accurate measure of the cost to the company. They aren’t paying for his childcare; they’re just not telling him to stop bringing his child to work. The actual cost to the company is, well, the thing Alison said to focus on: the impact it has on people’s work.

      Also, OP: framing the flexibility he enjoys as a “perk” is favorable to your employer. If you’re another employee, why not say that the inflexibility of *your* job is something that makes it more difficult to do and thus deserves higher salary and/or increased benefits? That argument may not be likely to work, but it could be more productive to advocate for yourself than against your coworker.

      1. Capitalism Ruins Everything*

        This! LW, you and your colleague are BOTH struggling under a system that doesn’t give parents and families as much support as they deserve. The problem is not that he’s bringing his toddler in when childcare falls through; the problem is that childcare falling through is even an issue. You both deserve to be getting enough salary and/or PTO for last-minute child care arrangements to be no big deal, and the fact that he’s dealing with it by bringing his kid in isn’t him taking advantage, it’s a manifestation of our society failing to value parents and your employer underpaying its workers. The equity issue isn’t solved by penalizing dads the same as moms, it’s by getting rid of the stigma for everyone. Advocate for everyone to have the same degree of liberty that he does, and force your employer to own it if they decide to bring people down instead of lifting them up.

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

      “I do bristle at the idea that not having children means you enjoy a “$10k-18k” perk. “You don’t have the same line items in your household budget that I do” is not how perks work.”

      I agree 100%. How many times have we seen here that you cannot give people more money because they need it. Just because Rachel has a mortgage doesn’t mean that she gets to get paid more than Sam who doesn’t have that expense. You don’t get to factor in employees outside expenses with their salary.

      Also, OP seems to think that their coworker is not paying for childcare because a family member (who is not the partner) is watching the kid. The coworker could be paying this family member nanny wages which can range from $8 to $20/ hour (at least in my area). So even if the coworker is paying low amount of $8/hour if that person is working 40 hours a week (which it sounds like they may be for the most part). That is going to be about $1280 a month in childcare. So the OP really cannot assume that their coworker “enjoys” an extra $10,000

    7. Limdood*

      I don’t get that all the replies to this are just focusing on the “10-15k perk” part and not the other thing that is 100% critical to the conversation:

      I’ve looked at and worked with a lot of daycares with two kids and in the education field myself. I’ve never seen a single daycare, ever, that will take a kid on short notice “once in a while”. they all have weekly minimum days (You have to attend 2 or 3 days a week minimum). they HAVE to. daycares have strict staff to kids ratios and they absolutely need a consistent, predictable number of children attending. “my family member caregiver wasn’t available” is no different than “my daycare had some staff out sick and can’t legally accommodate all the kids today”

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Because while we cannot see inside OP’s mind, to me that sentence seems to be the real core of their issue. There’s a lot of big-picture equity stuff in there, but since they have said that there is limited disruption and that the guy’s role is accommodating to bringing his kid in… then my read on the letter is that at the end of the day OP is unhappy that they are paying $10-$18k in child care and this guy isn’t. (Though I don’t know if they are just assuming he isn’t paying his family member or if they know that for a fact–if this has been the setup for three years I honestly would think it’s highly possible that he is paying them, though probably less than the cost of a daycare).

    8. A person*

      There are definitely different levels of reliability for daycare situations though. The occasional emergency closure of a normally reliable daycare is not as much of an issue. I also have a colleague with ridiculously unreliable child care (a friend of the family sort of thing). They use it because it’s cheap not because it’s the only option but it leads to colleague taking more PTO than they actually have and it does affect the team that has to routinely cover her work at the last minute. It is a mix of unreliable childcare and the usual sick kid issues but in the last 6 months or so she a been off almost at least one day a week unexpectedly. I don’t even have that much PTO and I have been with the company longer than her and have significantly more PTO than she does, which I struggle to use because I’m expected to cover her when shes out (as I don’t have children so in my company’s eyes I have unlimited free time).

      Unfortunately her boss has unlimited grace for people with small children so it will just continue and it does breed resent both towards her for abusing the system and towards her manager for his inaction about it.

    9. lucanus cervus*

      I don’t think LW is talking or thinking about people without children at all when she refers to the 10k-18k perk. She’s saying that out of the parents who work for the company, almost all are paying a great deal of money to make sure their kids aren’t disruptive to their work, and one guy is just going ‘nah, not going to worry about that’ and apparently getting away with it. (I’m not saying the situation is as simple as that in reality, I’m just trying to sum up LW’s point.)

      This isn’t about parents vs. non-parents at all. It’s just about how different parents handle their responsibilities. If you don’t have kids, the letter is not about you.

  6. Long Time Fed*

    Like millions before him, your coworker needs to have a plan, a back up plan, and saved leave for when neither of those plans work.

    I agree that there are small exceptions – once in a while on a a teleworking day when plans fall through – but to routinely work onsite or offsite with the distraction of a toddler post-pandemic is unfair to everyone who has to take up the slack, and there is slack.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Yes, this is a corporate issue. Nobody thought, “hey, we need to tell people that the childcare flexibility is gone.”
      They didn’t think about people needing to be explicitly told. So they didn’t. Many companies did. They sent out messages about WFH, dress code, hours, child care – their expectations for the new normal.
      Because that is what management is supposed to do.

      1. AlsoADHD*

        Maybe it isn’t gone? I mean, I don’t know. LW doesn’t really get into the company culture besides saying this wouldn’t work with all roles as easily as his.

  7. HannahS*

    It sounds to me like you aren’t sure what his child-care situation actually is and are assuming that he is doing this as his permanent solution instead of paying for childcare, unlike you and your colleagues, which feels unfair. But all you really know is that they had a working childcare arrangement which is no longer working. In some regions, daycare waitlists are nearly a year; it’s entirely possible that their family member’s availability suddenly changed and your employee is waiting for a spot or attempting to make other arrangements. Communicate your expectation (once in a blue moon, for example if child is ill and cannot attend daycare, they can be at home with parent) and establish a timeline. Assuming ill-faith is going to create more conflict.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Per the commenting rules, I do want to ask that we take the LW at her word about the facts in her letter (which are that she knows his arrangement with the family member continues to this day — something he easily could have shared at work just this week).

    2. HannahS*

      Also, I want to address your thoughts on equity. As a female resident physician with a toddler and I got criticized and mistreated at work for pregnancy complications, for being tired, for expressing milk, and for taking care of my child when my husband can’t.

      In what version of a progressive future is it BETTER for my husband to be equally punished for taking care of our child while working remotely? Yeah, it’s super unfair how he gets away with more than I would, but the future I want is one where workplaces support men in equitably sharing the work of children. I’m not saying that this specific coworker needs to continue his specific arrangements, but what I heard you say was “it’s unfair that women can’t do this, so men shouldn’t either.” Actually, people of all genders should be offered whatever flexibility is reasonable to deal with caregiving.

      1. Rosyglasses*

        That’s not what LW implied or stated at all. If the roles were reversed and the LW was male and coworker was female, the same issues would apply and I doubt folks would be calling the LW out for not being gender inclusive of parenting struggles. The inequity being spoken of is one person is trying to follow the rules of the workplace and is paying for childcare and is perceiving coworker as being more flexible with the rules and either working remotely because the in home caregiver is unavailable or bring the kiddo to work – which other people are not doing.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          That part of the letter introduced an interesting corollary (please let me know if I am using that word correctly).
          Gender bias is giving the male employee a level of flexibility and leniency that a female employee would not receive.
          Corrollary: the DAD is not “really” watching the kid. He’s just making sure the kid doesn’t fall down the steps. He’s not parenting. He’s just being a dad.
          So it’s sexist but both praising and belittling.

          1. MassMatt*

            Yes, a Dad taking a kid to work occasionally, or staying home occasionally with a kid, is often referred to as “babysitting”. It sums up the pricing and belittling both I think.

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              It’s why “mothering” means many things and “fathering” only means one.

      2. Lalala*

        HannahS, I agree with your point here. If we want a future where folks *can* have flexibility for caring responsibilities, maybe it’s useful to have this as a precedent. Does it open the door for women in this office to have a little more flexibility for their caring obligations too? (I mean sure, depending on frequncy this guy’s arrangement might pushing the bounds of what I’d consider okay, but in principle I want men to participate in care and I want workplaces to be reasonably flexible with carers!)

  8. Tio*

    Would there be any potential liability issues with him having his kid on-site at work, or is this something that’s totally ok? I can definitely see HR potentially being concerned about the kid breaking something or hurting himself onsite if the guy is bringing his kid in fairly often, and that wouldn’t be terribly off base to me.

    1. pally*

      Safety-good point! Something many don’t immediately think about when kids are allowed onsite.

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

        I think it really depends on the job. Because his job can be don 50+ percent at home it sounds like its a typical office job. So having the kid in his (hopefully private) office would be no different than having the kid at home. The’res not going to be chemicals or machinery running that would cause problems. The biggest issue would be the kid getting into something because the place is not baby proof

        1. Tio*

          Even in a very safe home, a kid can trip and crack his head on the desk corner. One of my friends had a helmet they had their kid wear sometimes as a toddler because he was prone to banging into things. But that doesn’t need to be the scale for a kid to have one nasty accident that’s now a company liability; a home office would be in your home and therefore your liability.

          1. elle *sparkle emoji**

            Yeah, when my younger brother was a toddler my parents covered all sharp edges at his level with foam bumpers and switched out the coffee table for a padded ottoman because he had an unfortunate habit of bouncing his face off furniture. No office would think to make these babyproofing adjustments because it’s a space for adults. There’s plenty of room in a typical office for a toddler to get hurt accidentally.

  9. Nonprofit Lifer*

    Serious question: is there anywhere in the United States where getting affordable, decent-quality childcare doesn’t involve either extraordinary luck or a months/years-long waitlist? Particularly for kids who aren’t yet potty trained?

    In my city, and in many other places, a year of care for a young child is considerably more expensive than a year of college tuition. The childcare places most likely to have openings are also least likely to have the kind of high-quality care by experienced, educated, and consistent staff that ample research shows are critical to children’s development at that age. Our childcare system is, frankly, broken, and most people don’t know it until they have an infant and find themselves wondering “How the heck is this supposed to work?”

    The very, very least we as a society can do is to provide flexibility for caregiving where it is possible. In this case, it sounds like this guy’s job makes it feasible, if not great. Making him/his family suffer in the name of “fairness” seems like solving the wrong problem.

    And “I had to figure it out, why don’t you” is the worst attitude that anyone from a group that’s being systemically disadvantaged.

    1. nnn*

      Don’t know, but the OP and her co-workers all have it so it’s probably not as hard as it still is in some places and they might not be in the US.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        The fact that the OP and her co-workers have it doesn’t mean it can’t still be hard for others. Most daycares have a certain number of spots based on ages (so a daycare may have spots for 3-5, but none for 6 months – 2 years).

        Also, it sounds like the OP DOES have child care in a family member, but sometimes that family member is unable to provide care, and on those days when child care falls through (be it a family member or a daycare provider) trying to find someone is nearly impossible.

        1. ferrina*

          Finding out of home back-up childcare is extremely difficult. Facilities are staffed based on the number of children they are caring for. There are mandated student:teacher ratios which scale based on age (so in my area it’s 3 infants:1 teacher, but 10 four year olds:1 teacher). In order to have extra spaces on call, they would need to have extra staff, which the parent would likely need to pay for on the regular.

          The places that do have back-up care aren’t always a great option. The kids in back-up care often don’t have a prior relationship with the teacher, which is tough, and no prior relationship with the other kids.

          I’ve been lucky that my work allows flexible hours and has ample sick time that my boss encourages me to take, so when my childcare falls through I can stay with my kids and work on the side. Honestly, that’s been the only workable solution, and it isn’t available to everyone.

          1. Samwise*

            Yes. I used to trade around with friends with kids of a similar age…or take leave.

            I used a LOT of leave when my child was young. And I went to work sick unless I was completely non-functional, because I needed the leave for emergency childcare. Pretty typical I’d say –in fact, I felt privileged, because there are plenty of parents who can’t take leave or don’t have leave.

      2. Underrated Pear*

        Depends on the children’s ages. Due to licensing requirements for daycares/preschools, it is usually not *super* difficult to find care for a child once they have turned 2. Before that is extremely tough, as many facilities only have a license for children 18m+ or 24m+. Finding infant care is nearly impossible: it is so costly for daycare providers that most don’t offer an infant room at all (it actually loses money due to the required teacher-child ratio) and in-home daycares are usually only allowed to take 1-2 infants max. I was on one wait list for an infant room for THREE YEARS! My child was in preschool when they finally called and told me she had a spot…

        Anyway, I’m not necessarily siding with the coworker here, just pointing out we don’t have enough information.

    2. Jayri*

      I agree.

      And too there could be a financial reason. If OP has no intimate knowledge of his financial situation they would not know that either. Just because salaries may be similar life expenses may not. Always best to never assume you know the full story.

      1. rayray*

        This is a big one. I am single, younger than most of my team, and probably have no hopes of owning a home so long a I work at this place. My coworkers who are married and/or are 10-15 years older and were able to get houses before they became out-of-reach to average income earners are paying less on their mortgages than what 1-bedroom apartments cost now. There’s other factors too though, they might have kids, medical expenses or other financial obligations that I don’t. Just because we all earn the same, it doesn’t mean we’re all in the same spot financially.

    3. Bear Expert*

      No, it’s broken and it’s getting worse because the remaining centers/solutions are falling apart under the pressures that tore their predecessors apart plus the pressure of being overwhelmed.

      Infant care needs to be signed up for before the child is conceived. Summer care has to be signed up for by January (and then there’s a mad rush of musical chairs when summer schedules actually settle in and everyone drops some things and scrambles to find coverage for other weeks. Wish me luck, I’m still waitlisted for one week that my coverage fell through in late May on.)

      I’ve been waitlisted for after school care with my local school and YMCA for two years. They won’t even let me add my name to the waitlist for the fall, again, until July.

      And the care jobs pay utter shit and have so much stress and regulation on them as well as physical risk, I understand completely why they’re understaffed.

      But none of that means there is anyone else who can pick my kid up after school, so that’s my lunch hour.

    4. Gwen Soul*

      In my area it is expensive but not prohibitive. I got decent all day summer care, and in the past have gotten a good daycare for about $150 a week, but I live in the Midwest just outside a MCOL city so that helps.

      1. Gwen Soul*

        oh and the only places with waitlist are the super fancy ones, I was able to find several with openings for my child a few years ago, maybe 3/5 had no or less than a month waiting.

      2. Lomster*

        Same, we’re doing okay. It’s not cheap, but it’s doable. I don’t envy the folks I know in big cities.

      3. bureaucratte*

        I mean that’s clearly not true where OP lives because they say it costs 10,000 to 18,000 a year. And where I live, OPs costs would actually be pretty cheap. There’s literally a lottery for summer care at the cheaper price that you listed and it’s not necessarily great and you definitely can’t get it before the age of three.

        1. Gwen Soul*

          yes but I was answering the question above “Serious question: is there anywhere in the United States where getting affordable, decent-quality childcare doesn’t involve either extraordinary luck or a months/years-long waitlist? Particularly for kids who aren’t yet potty trained?”

      4. Firecat*

        That’s extremely unusual. I’m in the Midwest, in a LCOL (e.g a 3 bedroom house in a nice neighborhood is still under $200k here, most rent is <$1,000, gas is $3.15) and it was $200/week for just two days of toddler care in my town 3 years ago. It's now $400 per day for intermittent care up to 3 days and it's "discounted" to $1400 per week for the full week.

    5. A Manager for Now*

      Medium living area here, with no family nearby, and the childcare we ended up with was a nanny exactly because all the centers had a LONG waitlist (we got on 7 months before my child was born. After their first birthday, we were still on waitlists), in-home centers were/are not taking children under 1 or had way too many kids under 3 per provider to be safe/beneficial. Nannies are expensive. We are basically paying my spouse’s whole take-home pay in salary.

      So, basically, no, there is nowhere that is not having a childcare shortage.

    6. Spero*

      I’m in a medium cost of living city in the Southeast, had a 7 month wait for an OK but not highest quality option for initial infant care after being refused to even join waitlist for preferred options. When she was 2 the waitlist for the preferred option opened up, she got off the waitlist/into the facility a month before turning 4. The reason we had to switch to the preferred option is because they’re one of two afterschool providers for her future elementary that ALSO offer summer/break coverage. So basically, I had to join a wait list 4 years ahead for the school-age care, and pay a premium for two extra years I can’t really afford because if I’d passed on that spot I’d have no guarantee on another opening up before she HAD to be in for kindergarten.

      A neighbor whose kiddo starts K at the same school in August just started looking for after/summer care and asked me for tips and I felt so bad but I honestly cry/laughed at her. Took me four years, good luck finding it in 3 months. My sister is unhappily sending her kid to private because it includes aftercare – the $ difference between a public school with paid aftercare that didn’t include summers and breaks, and a private that covered those times, was under $200 a month.

    7. JTP*

      Per a documentary I watched (made in 2022), only three states out of 51 (states + DC) had childcare that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers affordable (meaning it costs no more than 7% of a family’s income).

  10. ContraryAF*

    Hopefully you have a really tuned-in HR department that will recognize there is sexism involved in this situation. If a woman did this, people would be instantly all over it as being disruptive and an example of why mothers shouldn’t be in this job blah blah blah. But when a man does it oh look at what a sweet lovely father he is… and also this will not hold his career back one iota. They need to set some standards across the board that all parents have to follow. No more letting him get a pass because he’s got different bits.

    1. Fairness*

      The better solution is to extend grace to ALL parents, regardless of gender, in dealing with childcare issues.

      1. jasmine*

        This is an idyllic solution but not a realistic one. When a problem is something everyone has to deal with, and not just women, it creates a much bigger push for change. I hate to be so negative but many people will either deny women’s issues exist or be somewhat apathetic (after all it’s always been this way). When you apply the same standards to everyone, the dynamic changes.

        But in OP’s specific problem, I read it more as something that no one should be able to do, but coworker is getting away with it because he’s a man. Occasionally bringing in a kid is understandable but more than that, I’m very skeptical that this isn’t affecting work at all.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      The company should absolutely have sent out post Covid guidelines/requirements/expectations regarding everything that was pushed to the side for two years. It’s a service to their employees and they failed.

    3. bureaucratte*

      Or even better offer some sort of back up childcare benefit for everyone regardless of gender. I get that those are hard to come by these days so it could be a policy about what to do if your child care falls through

    4. MassMatt*

      I thought this part was really interesting:

      “My second equity-related qualm is that this seems to me like a behavior that male employees can get away with and be seen as a “good dad,” while female employees could be considered “unprofessional.””

      Lots of food for thought there.

      I agree with comments that the ideal is that rights/flexibility expand rather than contract, but don’t think the OP necessarily wants to take anything away from the coworker. IMO pointing out unfairness and inequality is always a good thing.

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

      But we don’t know that that is how the employer would react if a woman did this. This is only OP’s opinion because they says “My second equity-related qualm is that this seems to me like a behavior that male employees can get away with and be seen as a “good dad,” while female employees could be considered “unprofessional.”

      They mention nothing about a female coworker doing the same thing and being told they cannot. They are just assuming.

      1. jasmine*

        We don’t know about OP’s specific employer but I think we can safely say that a woman doing the same would be seen in a different light. Maybe not by her boss, but likely by some.

        1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

          This. It isn’t the reaction of the organization in questions here. It is the reaction of leadership, coworkers, clients, etc. that will lead t the woman being marked as unprofessional and having poor judgement vs. the man who is a caregiver and great guy. One of those people get promoted and one does not.

      2. TPS reporter*

        anecdotal evidence from my office is the two employees I’ve had to talk to about not following the childcare while working from home policy were male. their general perception was that they could work with the very young child in tow and they didn’t have to put in much effort to change their situation. on the other hand many female employees stressed themselves out by seeking childcare and took PTO when childcare fell through. not all men on my team have been like this, I have just seen more of a workplace policy compliance posture/not wanting to bother co workers/already feeling insecure about their skills and don’t want to further look distracted from the job from women.

    6. Justin D*

      I find it really depends on the person. Some sexist people will pat him on the back, others will insist that this is women’s work and therfore he shouldn’t be doing it.

  11. Magpie*

    I would be surprised if a child care shortage is the reason this colleague is choosing to do this. The timeline seems to indicate the child is about 3 years old now. In my experience finding care for my children and in talking to parents I know in other parts of the country, it seems like the year plus long waitlists are for children two and under since state regulations mean there are fewer spots at any given daycare for that age range. Once a child is over the age of 2.5, there are many more spots available. You might need to wait a few months but it’s nowhere near as challenging as finding care for a baby.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      Keep in mind that if this person has a family member providing care the majority of the time, you’re not going to be able to find a daycare that would take a kid for random days that the care provider cannot.
      OP, maybe this guy needs to know if your EAP helps to find one off days of childcare through a vetted service. That is more helpful than “he’s getting perks we aren’t” (he may be more stressed by these days than you are, and would be grateful for finding out that option).

    2. CityMouse*

      It’s a LOT easier to find care over age 2-3 too, as you can then use preschool too.

  12. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    I’m trying to reconcile the idea that this person has childcare but brings his toddler to work every time he comes in (at least that’s how it reads to me).

    1. Gherkin*

      It does read that way at first blush, but with re-reading, I don’t think he brings the kid *every* time he comes in.

      1. elle *sparkle emoji**

        I agree it doesn’t seem like every single time, but it still seems like a significant number of the in-office days, in addition to the child being on Zoom calls. That combo makes me think the family member childcare is falling through ~50% of the time, which feels like too often to continue relying on it. However LW doesn’t specify, and the uncertainty makes it hard to know how big an issue it is. If it’s twice a quarter that may be less of a problem.

    2. newish parent*

      Yes, that’s the sticking point for me, too. I have a child under one in daycare and I’m very much in favor of employers offering flexibility and grace to parents/primary caregivers. But bringing your child every single time you’re in the office? For an occasional emergency situation, maybe, but as a regular occurrence, I can’t see how that’s okay.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      I don’t read it that way. OP wrote:

      My issue is that my colleague’s family member is sometimes unavailable. And on days my colleague is required to come into the office, he brings his toddler to work.

      There are two separate sentences there, and I read them as “When the family member is unavailable on a day when my colleague is required in the office, he brings in toddler to the office.” Not that he brings the kid in on every in-office day, just the in-office days when the family member is unavailable. Especially because in the next paragraph, the OP says this is becoming more than a once-in-a-blue moon phenomenon which implies to me that it is still not an all-the-time phenomenon.

      1. ferrina*

        I wish they specified how often. Scientifically, a blue moon only occurs ever two to three years. If the colleague was bringing their kids in every 3 months and the kid was well contained, I’d tough it out (it will solve itself in time, and back-up care is ridiculously hard to find). If it’s more like every couple weeks, that’s a problem.

        1. Qwerty*

          It may also be a perception problem. I can’t tell if OP is saying that the toddler is there whenever the coworker has to come on site, or that it only happens at the intersection of on-site + lack of family member.

          Let’s say the toddler is at the office once a month. If the coworker is only on site for that one day, the toddler’s presence will feel larger because it is always tied to the coworker’s presence. If the coworker was child-free in the office 3x a week for the rest of the month, then the toddler will feel more like an occasional visitor. Different results despite the frequency being the same.

          1. elle *sparkle emoji**

            This is where the part about the kid also appearing on Zoom calls makes me curious. Is the kid making an appearance then because the childcare has fallen through and dad is working and watching kiddo at the same time? Or is kiddo stopping to say hi while the family member is there? If it’s the latter maybe the current situation is fine. If it’s the former where childcare is falling through on both in-office and at-home days, that seems like a potential issue that LW/dad’s manager could raise.

        2. This Old House*

          I agree. Bringing the kid in occasionally (which I would call every few months, or a handful of times a year) I wouldn’t blink at; even if his childcare wasn’t quite as reliable as everyone else’s, it would seem to be reliable *enough.* If it’s every week or two, that’s a different thing entirely.

    4. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      I think that might be a misreading. It sounded like the LW was saying that sometimes the family member who provides the in-home childcare cannot do that, and when that happens and the colleague is required to go into the office then he brings his toddler with him.

      I got the impression that the difficulty LW is having is that the combination of child being on Zoom calls plus sometimes coming into the office creates this impression that LW’s colleague doesn’t have reliable/regular childcare.

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

        I really wish the OP elaborated more on how often the coworker is coming in with the kid, and what the disruption is with the kid on zoom. If the kid is just wondering through and the coworker sends them back out, thats not really a problem. Just like if coworker has brought the kid in once or twice.

        1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

          I do too. The less charitable part of me suspects it’s because it isn’t causing major disruptions.

  13. formerivygirl*

    It sounds like this is a forgiveness before permission situation. If they’ve done it before, and nothing has happened, they’ll continue to do it unless told otherwise.

    You can point out the disparity with other similarly situated parent-type workers in your work area, especially if this is a safety/OSHA type situation; I’d also mention the frequency, particularly if it’s been on the increase. Point to facts – how many times, how this affects productivity, etc.: metrics, metrics, metrics.

    The monetary “perk” – leave that alone – that’s too subjective. You could mention the gendered aspect of this, but personally I’d leave that alone. If you don’t supervise this person, but share a common manager, you escalate it to them, mentioning the metrics. If you don’t share management, then you could escalate this to HR as “this is a thing I’m noticing – is this OK?”

    And then – leave it alone. Do not continue to track this, or you risk being perceived as spending mental capital on something that has been raised to the folks who can do something about it.

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

      The thing is the OP is not the manager and so doesn’t know the situation. He may have permission to do this. Heck, maybe more people would have this flexibility (in similar roles) but they don’t know about it or choose not to.

      1. formerivygirl*

        My advice still applies, though. Escalate to the common manager of the department, or take to HR.

        Then – and this is the most important part – leave it alone.

  14. Jennifer Strange*

    Just a note, but it sounds like some commenters are reading the situation as the co-worker not having ANY care and working while caring for his child. It sounds to me like the co-worker DOES have care through a family member other than his partner, but sometimes that family member is unable to provide care, leaving the co-worker with no alternative. Now, that can happen even with reliable daycare, though of course if it’s happening, say, once a week, that’s not reliable. However, at the end of the day it still could be a situation where the co-worker doesn’t have any other choice either due to availability or costs (both of which apply to the LW and others, of course!)

    LW, I urge you to focus on what actually affects you. If there are issues making it difficult for you to complete your work do bring it to your manager, but in a “Hey, these are the issues I’m having. I don’t know Joe’s situation, but are there any changes we can make so that I’m not having those issues.” Because it may be that management is aware of the situation and is trying to extend grace (which, while possibly frustrating, is good as it’s a sign that they would likely do the same for you).

    1. Kate B.*

      Yes, just replying to emphasize this: the coworker DOES have a primary childcare plan. A family member as an in-home 1:1 nanny is a childcare plan. It looks different from paying for group daycare, and it comes with different problems and advantages (and he may well be paying for it in non-monetary ways), but the comments that he needs to *get* primary childcare seem to be missing this. We just had a letter a few weeks ago about how hard it can be to find emergency childcare when a last-minute need arises.

      If other people (and particularly people who aren’t men) with similar jobs are being explicitly told they can’t bring kids to work occasionally, or are being penalized/gossiped about for doing so, THAT seems like a good place to focus your advocacy efforts. How can this be the beginning of better options at work for *everyone* with young kids if it’s (as stated) not a major disruption when this guy does it?

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

      I noticed that too. The OP clearly states that they still have an arrangement for primary care for the child in the home. Now they are hybrid but they continue to see the kid during zoom meetings and on days he is required to come into the office he brings the kid.
      I wonder, the zoom meetings, is this the kid just wonders in or is he disruptive, Like wanting to be held, etc. And what does the coworker do? Does he excuse himself and take the kid back to the care giver? If its just occasionally maybe the caregiver is washing dishes or in the bathroom and the kid sneaks out (I’ve been there where the 3 year old in the span of 2 minutes climbed on top of the bunk bed and unlocked the iPad)
      I also want to know does he bring the kid in EVERY time he has to come into the office. Or is it occasionally. is OP and the coworker there every time at the same time, or does he sometimes work at the office while OP is out so they don’t cross paths.

      1. Elsajeni*

        Yeah, I think there are real issues it might be worth raising here — how much kid disruption on Zoom calls, etc. is acceptable when you are WFH with in-home childcare? What is acceptable when your childcare falls through or isn’t available — okay to bring the kid to the office, okay to WFH at half-efficiency while also watching the kid, or is the expectation that you take the day off — and how often can you use that flexibility before it becomes “you no longer have reliable childcare, please seek a different arrangement”? But because most people would agree that this stuff is okay sometimes, it’s a little hard to tell whether this guy has really crossed into the Problem Zone or whether the OP is just feeling a little aggrieved that he’s “getting away with” something that they’ve put in a bunch of effort to avoid doing.

  15. Dr. Vibrissae*

    The first equity issue LW mentions – this employee’s job can be done 50% remote and accommodates having a child in tow vs. other jobs with more onsite requirements and less child-friendly features, doesn’t strike me as an equity issue. It’s the nature of having different jobs to have differing scheduling and danger levels. Having a job with X requirements isn’t inequitable to people with jobs who have Y requirements. Yes having a position that is flexible enough that you can forego daycare or mostly meet your needs with family coverage is a perk, but it’s not an inherently unfair perk.

    I agree that the optics around a man doing this vs. a woman doing this would be different, but again, I’m not convinced that whether or not a woman would be judged is the question we should ask when determining whether or not the behavior should be allowed. Allison is right that this should be evaluated and addressed in response to whether it is causing problems or is setting a precedent that might cause problems.

    1. Lomster*

      But if I am a woman with the exact same job as this employee (or one with similar features) and I bring my toddler to work regularly, do I get dinged as unprofessional and too mommy focused? That’s the issue that I believe the LW is raising.

      The other issue is that people with similar roles and similar wfh capabilities are paying for reliable full-time childcare and this employee is not. It does feel like he is getting away with something and I would also be irritated. You mean I could just skip out on daycare and deal with my kid or take him to the office whenever my family member doesn’t show? And NOT pay $15K a year? Sounds awesome.

      1. AD*

        That’s not what OP is writing about, though. “Other staff members” does not necessarily mean people in the exact same or similar role. It’s intentionally vague:

        “First, my colleague’s job description means that he can work remotely more than 50% of the time, and his on-site work does somewhat accommodate a child in tow. But we have other staff members who can work off-site no more than 20% of the time, and their on-site work is not at all child-friendly. Employees who can avoid paying daycare fees effectively enjoy a $10,000-$18,000 annual perk.”

        As someone who works closely w/HR folks, I see some folks falling into a very common trap here blurring the lines between “equity” and “this other person appears to get perks I do not get, even though I don’t know their situation, any accommodations they may have requested, and whether their manager and/or HR have approved their situation”. I think it’s important to be mindful of those distinctions.

      2. WellRed*

        The OP specifically mentions that certain jobs require different levels of needing to be onsite, so no, not the exact same job,

      3. kiki*

        I mean, on your second issue, a lot of people “get out of” paying for childcare if they have family members or friends available to do it consistently. I guess I’m curious exactly how unreliable this coworker’s family member is, how often coworker is bringing their kid to work, and how coworker’s childcare reliability compares to paid daycare reliability (since daycares have closures, don’t allow kids with fevers, etc.). In some ways, having a family member care for your kid may work out better than paid daycare if the caretaker is okay with being exposed when the kid is sick.

        That may not be the case and maybe this coworker’s caretaker is unavailable wayyy more often than is sustainable, but I think fixating on “we all pay and he doesn’t” isn’t the best here. Some people have situations where they don’t pay for things most of us do. The focus should be on whether colleague’s current childcare situation is reliable enough to prevent frequent distractions.

    2. Juggling Plunger*

      On the gender issue – there could also be a gender politics element where he’s trying to move the needle. If he does this and can get away with it (and he’s more likely to get away with it since he’s a man) does he then set the precedent for what the women in the office will be able to do as well (whereas if a woman went first it might go a lot more badly for her)?

  16. MsSolo (UK)*

    Something that’s always surprised me reading older posts here is how often people bringing kids into the workplace is a raised; it’s not as common as noise complaints, but more than anonymous notes (that’s a guess; I haven’t actually quantified it!). In those historic posts, it’s normally school aged kids, and it’s normally women bringing them in, usually to a small office the employee occupies alone or with one other people (usually the LW). With the childcare crisis having intensified since Covid, and the continued rise of open offices, you’d think we’d be seeing more letters about it now. I assume the rise of WfH has reduced the issue, but I suspect it’ll start creeping back in.

    I wonder whether this was behaviour that happened occasionally in OP’s office pre-pandemic (not with this specific colleague, obviously, but others), or whether it’s a wholly new issue for them, because I think that will inform the response. As others have said, if it’s not causing issues for OP it’s difficult to approach it, but it’s probably worth raising once and letting it alone.

  17. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    “While the disruption that this situation causes is fairly limited”

    I keep coming back to that line. Something to think about too, he could have permission to bring the child.

    You also mention his job description allows 50%+ WFH where yours doesn’t.

    Honestly you sound a little jealous of the guy. But really this whole situation depends on if he has permission to bring his kid. If he does leave it alone. If push after finding out he has permission then yes YTA.

  18. Unfettered scientist*

    I think the biggest issue is just that you can’t do a full time job and also care for a child simultaneously and that’s clearly what’s happening on days he brings his kid in. It’s not good for the kid to not be fully supervised at that age and it’s not conducive to work to be fully supervising a child. These things just can’t happen together.

    1. NYC Taxi*

      Agree. All the mental gymnastics going on here how we should accept people bringing their kids to work is ridiculous. Either you’re working or you’re watching your kid. You can’t be effective at both.

    2. CityMouse*

      As someone who often had to do both during the pandemic, I fully agree. At toddler age, not even screen time will hold them for very long. They’re wiggly.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, I hate how people think working from home while also caring for a child is this grand solution. I mean, it’s better than being fired or taking unpaid leave when I run out of vacation days. But it’s pure misery and not something I would ever want to do routinely. Toddlers need to burn off energy and I can’t take mine to the park while I’m working. I’ve muddled through it plenty of times, but a toddler spending all day cooped up inside isn’t good for anyone.

    3. Nia*

      That’s not OP’s job to manage. If his manager is satisfied that’s all that matters.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        I think this is the crux. The OP has no authority here, and they also can’t cite any impact to their own work to support their cause to someone with authority.

        If their boss were writing in, the answer would be different. But evidently it doesn’t bother the boss. (or for all OP knows, there’s specific arrangement between boss and coworker that she isn’t privy to)

    4. hbc*

      Maybe you can’t do an 8 hour job in the 9-5 format while also watching your kid, but maybe you can take 8 hours to get your 6 hours worth of must-be-on-site stuff done and write up your reports and answer emails while your kid is asleep, and also put in a 10 hour day when your childcare is in place tomorrow.

      I’m reminded of the guy who was all “decided to put in a half day, huh?” when I left work at 3:30…after I came in at 6:30 and also came in twice over the weekend to changeover equipment that was on a 17 hour cycle. Luckily my boss judged me on my actual accomplishments and productivity.

  19. LTR FTW*

    I’m so tired of people that act like they’re getting punished in some way when someone else gets a benefit. So, so tired.

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      I think the possible issue here is that others may “qualify” for that benefit but can’t or don’t feel like they can use it. Like, this isn’t about people without children complaining about childcare benefits or those who don’t drive complaining about free parking. Rather, other people may be in the same scenario but don’t feel like they can bring their kids to the office. (I do agree that this argument may be shaky here when different types of job may or may not make it safe to have kids with them.)

  20. Abatibibaboebech*

    I must point something out, as I don’t see anyone else mentioned it.
    My child had medical problems that prevented me from putting him in any childcare outside the home until he was 6. luckily my spouse could be with him full time at home, but that’s not always the case.
    I feel the assumption he does not have permission, is just that, an assumption. We don’t have the full story, and as a colleague I guess the LW doesn’t have the full story as well.

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

      I was thinking this too. If the child has special needs it can be harder to find reliable care.

      1. Candace*

        There is this. My daughter had insanely terrible eczema for the first six months of her life. If we had not had a private caretaker, I would have had to quit my job, as there was no way she could have been in daycare.

    2. lucanus cervus*

      That’s a really good point – even if this guy’s childcare plan is less reliable than daycare would be, there may be excellent reasons for him to use it.

  21. Public Safety Executive*

    Equity does not mean that everyone receives the same benefits or perks. There are always winners/losers if we want to use that language.

    If this person is a colleague and not a report or not under matrix supervision by the OP, it is akin to watching someone arrive at work and tracking that time.

    If it does not affect your workflow or impact the colleague’s work product and or their manager has no concerns with their output, I am struggling to see this as the OPs business other than a case of they have it and its unfair to me…just because?

  22. CityMouse*

    I had to deal with having a toddler at home during the pandemic, but in no way is it acceptable to bring a toddler into the workplace outside of rare emergencies. It is very disruptive.

  23. TX_trucker*

    What type of workspace does your colleague have? A child in a private office is a very different situation than a child in a cubicle. If the disruption really is minimal, I would let it go.

  24. sdog*

    I have to say, I strongly disagree with all the “let it be unless it affects your work” comments. I think it’s a reasonable expectation to have that employees are not providing childcare while at work, whether they are teleworking or in the office. Even if LW is not actually affected, there is no way that the employee is able to fully focus on work while attending to a TODDLER. I have older children, and I am still spending an inordinate amount of time making snacks, fending off, “I’m bored” interruptions, and settling kids into various activities that will occupy them for the 1-2 hours they may be home after school while I’m working.

    I admit that I strongly feel the “I do it, everyone else should have to” mentality, but I don’t think it’s just being petty. Part of it is that I know how impossible it is to work with a child around. I also know that in our area, childcare is easier to come by now than it was (tho it has never been as easy as it should be, which is a separate convo) during the pandemic. But I don’t think those are the reasons to bring it up. I think LW should focus on the precedent-setting aspect of this, and the general disruptiveness of having a child in the workplace. I like Alison’s suggested phrasing.

    I should also admit that this is timely because it’s happening in my work now, and I’ve been wondering how to best raise this issue. Not regularly, but often enough to bug me, one person’s small child is often taking over our conference space or coloring under her mom’s desk, and I find it distracting, even though I do not often directly work with this team member. Also there are two people in my office without external childcare, and I definitely side eye them when they are slow to respond to requests (whether the delay is because they are not as efficient as they could be because they are not fully focused on work during the workday). Maybe that’s unfair since I don’t know what else is on their plates, but it definitely makes me look at them differently.

    1. TPS reporter*

      I agree, I think it negatively effects morale to see a colleague be allowed to maintain this level of distraction and still keep their job. imagine if you swapped the child for working from a mall or working with a TV blasting in their face. you know this person is not able to do a full time job yet are allowed to maintain this practice. that kind of thing makes people resentful.

  25. HelloFromNY*

    I’m curious, which would have a more negative impact on the team: This person calling out of work when childcare falls through, or this person bringing their child to work in those instances? (albeit working at a lower capacity)?

    When I was a kid my dad worked a desk job for a tech company. He once had to bring me into work because the babysitter fell through. My dad’s boss was very angry and told him if he did it again he would be fired. A few weeks later the babysitter fell through again, so my dad called off work. Apparently his absence caused a big problem. The boss changed his mind and effectively said he would rather my dad bring me and do his work at a 50%, vs calling in and doing work at 0%.

    1. HelloFromNY*

      I’d also like to add this might be a good opportunity to advocate for your workplace to offer some kind of family care benefit. Such as a childcare subsidy, dependent care FSA, stipend or cash allowance might help with the financial burdens of childcare. My work also offers a backup care service for people who need short notice care for either children or elders.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      It’s really hard to answer because it really depends on what their work is, the age of the kid, and the kid’s temperament. As a child I would happily stay in one spot for literal hours as long as my supply of books held out. Even longer if you gave me some paper and an ink stamp.

      1. HelloFromNY*

        I was also this kid. Give me a few books and little me would just sit read quietly for hours.

  26. Observer*

    On the equity front, I think that there are two separate issues, and you need to look at them separately.

    The first is that not everyone can work at home as much as he can / allow for some toddler time as he has. Please do not even mention it. That doesn’t promote equity. And the people the most likely to be hurt in the long term are the people who can least afford it. Denying someone a perk or benefit because other people *legitimately* cannot access that benefit is not equitable in general. This is especially true when you are looking at things like workplace flexibility. Because while right now it’s benefiting a person who seems to be taking unfair advantage, you don’t want to knock this out for people for whom this could be a game changer.

    Your other issue, on the other hand, is very valid. If there are others (women, POC, etc.), who technically have a similar level of flexibility but pay extra to have a high level of stability in their childcare because they know that they could never “get away with it”, that is a HUGE issue.

  27. SpaceySteph*

    Want to really underscore the first paragraph of the answer which is that childcare is still difficult to obtain in a lot of places. We are relocating later this month to another state and I have been on about 10 waiting lists there since March. Basically every place that was secular (we are not Christian, while many of the daycares in the area are faith based) I called. Some I even paid deposits toward to get on the waiting list.

    I started calling back around to everywhere last week and have finally as of today locked down a spot for my 3yo at one daycare and a spot for my 1yo at another daycare, 15 mins apart in opposite directions, and neither of which were my first choice. So we’re going to be adding a significant amount of commute and chaos to our families lives, but honestly I’m just glad that we at least found them spots. Its really tough out there in many places.

  28. Underrated Pear*

    I totally get the annoyance, but I’m putting this perspective out here…

    From the letter, it sounds like the coworker does have child care in place, but that it often falls through for whatever reason. Sharing my experience with our second kid: we couldn’t find center-based care at all until she was two, so we ended up hiring a nanny those first two years (which we absolutely could not afford, but anyway…). The nanny was great, but called out ALL THE TIME. We have no family in the area, so if the nanny called out, that was that. There’s no backup care.

    Then once my daughter turned 2, we put her in center-based care. As any parent can attest, as soon as your child enters daycare/preschool, they will get sick LITERALLY EVERY WEEK. For about the first year. She’s often back to normal within half a day, but she has to stay home the next day because of the school’s sick policy. So she spends a lot of time at home, despite the fact that we do, indeed, pay for child care. Also, her school is closed for two weeks around Christmas, one week for spring break, two weeks before the start of summer session, and two weeks before the start of fall session. That’s seven weeks per year, which is far more vacation time than I have. So even before we start getting into her seventy billion sick days, we’re dealing with that (and there aren’t options for camps like there are during the summer).

    So yeah, my point is, there is simply no such thing as “reliable” child care. It’s always a mess. But it does get better over time as kids get older.

    1. HelloFromNY*

      I know daycares close around some holidays, but that seems like an abnormally high amount of planned closures. 2 weeks for Christmas? Daycares around here close for just Christmas Day and MAYBE Christmas Eve.

    2. Camelid coordinator*

      I am glad you pointed this out. It seems to me like the policy around how to handle childcare staffing emergencies or gaps needs to address how often we are talking about. A relative providing care could easily call out or not be there once a month, but bringing a kid into the office once a month might feel like a lot to everyone else.

      I always signed young kiddo up for as much as I could, and we’d still have that two week gap at the end of the summer where there were no camps and school hadn’t started. My employer offered a backup care benefit but it was hard to use at the end of summer since everyone else needed care then, too.

  29. Life is not fair*

    There are certainly legitimate reasons to object to this, but “it’s not fair” and “what if everyone did that?” are not among them. The trouble with “equity” actions is that it rarely results in increasing benefits for anyone. More often it results in taking away benefits from some so that all can be equally miserable.

    1. Life is not fair*

      A caveat – if someone is expressly forbidden from this while another is allowed, that is a problem. I was referring to taking something away because someone else “might not feel like” they can do it too.

  30. $$$*

    if you would like your co-worker to stop bringing their child to work, email HR or your manager. tell them you noticed your coworker bringing their child to work on days the child care fell through. indicate that you also would be interested in bringing your child to work when your child’s child care falls through. ask about the company policy for this, like how many days are you allowed to do this? or if you need to do anything before being allowed to do this.
    for good measure indicate other coworkers also may be interested in said perk.
    I think you’ll find HR will talk to the coworker pretty quickly after that or you may even find the company is fine with everyone bringing their kids to work on occasion.

    1. Random Dice*


      Sure, if you want to be a jerk, do that.

      Because the one thing the parent of a toddler needs, it’s someone making life harder because theoretically they may be getting a benefit someone else isn’t.

      Karma comes around, just remember that.

  31. Political consultant*

    I’m not sure asking whether there’s a shortage of child care in your particular area is very useful. Nearly 16,000 child care centers shut down during the pandemic, many for good. The result is that nearly everywhere in the U.S. is experiencing a shortage of child care. In most places, that doesn’t mean child care is totally unavailable, but it is more expensive and harder to get off waitlists than pre-pandemic. Plus, many school and daycare policies have remained stricter about illnesses and quarantines than they were pre-pandemic, including for non-COVID infections.

    Every company should be taking that into account when crafting policies for working parents. That doesn’t mean a blanket policy allowing parents to work while caring for children full time – that’s unworkable for the vast majority of roles and situations. But it does mean doing things like: 1) making sure all your employees’ wages have increased where possible to keep up with inflation and the increased cost of child care; 2) giving employees as much flexibility as possible to take time off or work from home when their child is sick or their childcare falls through for any other reason; 3) providing more generous paid parental leave to reduce the burden on parents during a child’s first year, when paid child care is typically most expensive and hardest to find; 4) making sure parents can leave on time to pick kids up from daycare and avoid late fees; and so on. Basically, assume child care access & affordability is a long-term problem for your employees, rather than just a COVID-induced temporary crisis, and plan accordingly.

  32. Ahdez*

    I disagree with most commenters. You should absolutely push back on the person bringing their child to the office. It’s not safe, and it is impossible to both work full time and provide child care to a 2 year old (I learned that the hard way during the pandemic shut downs!).

    I think the company should be flexible about: the child appearing on Zoom occasionally, childcare falling through sometimes, allowing the parent to work remotely instead of coming into the office because of childcare issues… but draw the line at kids actually IN the office. The advantage here is that this person can actually work remotely, so it won’t affect them as much as someone who really has to be in the office 100% or has a coverage-based job – but even then, no kids in the office is, in my opinion, totally reasonable, and I think you absolutely have standing to bring it up.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Cosigned. There are a lot of ways to be flexible that are absolutely fine, ESPECIALLY if it is clear performance hasn’t dipped, but bringing to the office for anything other than a special visit is a non-starter.

    2. CityMouse*

      I think it’s funny that the commenters who are most “Oh no way” seem to be those who were forced to work at home with toddlers during the pandemic. I’ve been there, done that, know it’s a bad idea.

  33. STG*

    I think the situation feels inequitable because I’d guess that other employees have to use PTO when their childcare falls through and he doesn’t because he just brings them in to work with him. That is a perk that sounds like is only provided to him.

    I wouldn’t be a fan of this setup myself but that’s more because I really just don’t want to deal with children in the workplace. I wouldn’t take a job where this was the norm in the office environment either.

  34. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

    While I totally understand the equity concerns, unless it’s having a big impact on your work, I think raising it as an issue would likely just make life slightly worse for your coworker and not much better for anyone else.

  35. 2 Cents*

    The norms at my workplace have changed SO much since the pandemic. Many of the people I work with have children the same age as mine, so I follow what I think they’re doing. There’s the written rules … and then there’s the unwritten rules. It’s kind of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” vibe I get (am I working from my phone at my daughter’s practice or am I at my desk? If I’m getting my work done, does it matter?). Plus, finding occasional childcare can be so difficult (not impossible), especially for small, under school-age children. There is no “part-time” day care many places. Babysitters aren’t always reliable. Sometimes you have to take the sick day.

  36. ijustworkhere*

    If the child is disruptive to your ability to get your work done, then you absolutely have standing to say something. If you are having to take PTO or otherwise miss work when you don’t have childcare, then it is absolutely something you can and should ask about—is our company now offering this type of flexibility to all employees? And your concern about women vs men bringing their kids to work is also valid and for that reason, I would ask somebody to clarify the company’s stand on this practice in writing.

    I think the company is opening itself up to a lot of potential liability if that kid gets hurt on the premises. Workplaces aren’t set up for curious toddlers. For that reason alone, the company really should take a hard look at this practice.

    1. Dancing Otter*

      Ooh, I definitely like the suggestion to ask whether other people can do the same thing.

      Or even just do it yourself, then push back if you’re told you can’t. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander…

  37. Dancing Otter*

    Am I reading this correctly, that he brings the toddler EVERY time he works in the office? That’s not covering an unexpected gap in childcare; that IS his childcare plan.

    Does the child wander around the office? I would be very annoyed if Junior came into my work area unsupervised. There are both safety hazards for Junior and personal stuff I don’t want grabbed.

    I don’t know that I would actually call Security to report an unsupervised child, but the temptation would definitely increase with every incursion. I would definitely tell the child in my best carrying voice (short of yelling) that they are not allowed here; who do you belong to; go back to Daddy NOW. EVERYONE would hear. And if the parent isn’t in ear-shot, he should be.

    Before I’m accused of being the office equivalent of a curmudgeonly neighbor yelling “Stay off my grass, you rotten kids”, even toddlers can understand there are places they aren’t supposed to go and things they aren’t supposed to do. Better than their parents, sometimes.

    I kind of feel sorry for the toddler. Unless the father has a private office stocked with age-appropriate toys, it must be horribly boring for them.

    1. Dahlia*

      You are not reading it correctly.

      “My issue is that my colleague’s family member is sometimes unavailable. And on days my colleague is required to come into the office, he brings his toddler to work.”

      When the family member who does the childcare is unavailable, AND he needs to come into the office (hybrid, so not all the time), he brings the child with him.

  38. Lily Potter*

    This letter (and the ones discussing boss’ and co-workers’ reactions to being late to work) have less to do with the actual child or employee arrival time, and more to do with “planning for predictable emergencies”. My suspicion is that the co-worker who’s bringing in their child also isn’t always on top of things in other aspects of work. Not having backup childcare is an irritant to this co-worker because it’s yet one more instance where Fred’s emergency becomes everyone’s problem. It’s because Fred doesn’t plan for predictable emergencies (sick kids or sick nannies WILL happen, it’s just a matter of when!) that’s an irritant here. If Fred was 100% on top of things in the office, and only very occasionally brought a kid into the office or into his Zoom calls, I doubt this Letter Writer would care much. Something tells me that Fred is also not the type to pitch in and cover for his co-workers when they are dealing with life issues.

  39. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    I want to preface this by saying I don’t believe LW is the asshole or anything, but nearly everything about this letter (and parts of the response) is rubbing me the wrong way, starting with the way the letter is titled (which frames the letter) and makes it sound like the colleague to whom LW is referring doesn’t have childcare. He does. It’s in-home childcare provided by a family member. It’s unclear whether that’s paid or not, but I think if the colleague had a nanny providing in-home childcare, the framing of this would be vastly different (Colleague has kid on calls and brings kid into work sometimes while the rest of us *pay* for childcare). I really don’t like that framing, at all but I also recognize that it’s hard to fit every descriptor in to a web article’s title so I’m not necessarily criticizing AAM.

    The second part that gets me is that LW seems to be focused on the comparison of their situation and the colleague’s, versus focusing on what’s the effect of that at work / on the work (and AAM addresses this in her reply, of course). Has anyone brought up with the colleague in question that their child is disrupting Zoom meetings? Is it even established that this is the underlying issue? The way this is all written just feels like “This person has a noticeably different arrangement and I don’t like it.”

    Even the part where the LW brings up the equity issue — that’s a very valid point. Is that what is happening? Are there other recent parents (parents, who, by the way became parents during a time when out of home daycare was ridiculously hard to find and have now built their routines around in-home care) who are women who are getting different treatment than this man? If so, I’d definitely bring that up – but if not, I don’t think making things potentially more difficult for this person helps anyone’s equity.

    I work for a large firm who used to be absolutely crappy about handling noise interruptions (children, pets, doorbells) for people who worked from home because the firm viewed remote work as not real work. That all changed during the pandemic and people quickly realized we can work and have our families and normal lives going on around us. I chafe at the idea that we are starting to drift back into the old ways, especially when there are fairly straightforward ways to address issues if this person’s kid is disrupting meetings. “Could I ask you to have your take into another room?” or suggest the person mute and maybe go off camera if the first option isn’t possible. As for bringing the kid into the office, maybe talk to your HR team about adding on a benefit for the company to provide emergency childcare. My company offers this through Bright Horizons and it’s a fantastic benefit.

    1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      Oops. The sentence should be “Could I ask you to have your (family member) take (child) into another room?” I used tag brackets by mistake.

    2. Gherkin*

      Yes, a much better title would be “Colleague has kid on calls and brings kid into work sometimes while the rest of us use PTO when we don’t have childcare”

  40. bamcheeks*

    Obviously this very much depends on your salary and how affordable childcare is in your area, but oh my god, having lived through the pandemic paying £1200 a month to have my child in childcare was absolutely 100% worth every penny. Cannot imagine making a free choice to bring a child to work regularly.

  41. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    I agree with Alison’s response in general except for ignoring one part of the original letter: the OP whining that they have to pay for childcare when this colleague does not if, it’s even accurate take this colleague does not. But that’s something we take on when we have children. We all agree that it stinks how much childcare in the United States costs but resentment if our parenting costs costs are higher than other people’s doesn’t get us anywhere. If your colleague has no childcare expenses is irrelevant. The term what you wrote in your letter? Actually, was it very and to hearing that you’re wrong. I’m a parent and I agree on the distraction issue. Your complaint about the unfairness of the other person not having to pay while everybody else pays hit me wrong.

    appearance and a consultant who brought my child to meeti

  42. kiki*

    Two questions I have are:
    1.) How often is the family member not available to provide childcare?
    2.) Is it more frequent than folks who use daycare have to find alternate accommodations due to closures, illness, etc.?

    Throughout the worst of the pandemic and even now, a lot of my coworkers, even those with with paid, top-of-the-line daycare, have had to figure out alternatives or work with their kids at home wayyyy more often than was typical pre-2020.

    LW’s statement “Employees who can avoid paying daycare fees effectively enjoy a $10,000-$18,000 annual perk” made me wonder if LW is more frustrated by the way their colleague is getting out of paying a tidy sum of money for childcare than by any interruptions the child is causing. Because even before the pandemic and work-from-home being more common, there were always people who got out of paying for childcare by having family and friends serve as caretakers.

    1. elle *sparkle emoji**

      I think these are the important questions. I would add there are genuine safety reasons why a toddler should not be in any workplace, even a normal cubicle/office(safe for adults=/= safe for toddlers). IMO, the ideal situation here is allowing employees to work from home when childcare falls through if they want.

      1. elle *sparkle emoji**

        *allowing all employees who can wfh to wfh when childcare falls through

  43. Candy*

    >> Employees who can avoid paying daycare fees effectively enjoy a $10,000-$18,000 annual perk.

    Well yeah, childcare is expensive. So are mortgages, or annual vacations, or whatever else someone decides to spend their money on.

    Your company is paying each of its employees their agreed upon wage and what each individual employee decides to spend that money on is up to them.

    The company itself isn’t giving extra benefits or perks to its employees without children or childcare equaling an extra $10,000-$18,000 a year.

    1. kiki*

      Yeah, I don’t really love that logic, considering not paying daycare fees a perk. Because I don’t have any kids to pay for daycare for– is that a perk? If coworker had a stay-at-home spouse who cared for their kid full-time, would that be considered a perk? If one coworker’s job doesn’t require them to drive and they opt out of car ownership, is that a perk? I feel like this thinking gets into murky territory. Sometimes folks just have personal circumstances that mean they don’t have to spend money on certain things. It’s not necessarily fair, but there’s not much you can do about it.

    2. Mainly Max*

      I bristled at this too. I don’t have kids–does that mean my peers with children should get paid 10-18k/year more than I do so they can pay for childcare? Of course not.

      Framing this as an equity issue is dangerous. Equity is leveling out as many societal advantages and disadvantages as possible to give everyone the same chance at success. It’s not that we all deserve to have the same amount to put in savings after our monthly expenses or that our employers should be deciding what is or isn’t “worthy” spending. If I spend 10-18k/year on care for a disabled parent instead of a child, does that count? What if it’s a friend instead of a blood relative? What if I want to use a nanny that costs twice as much? What if I have 18 exotic cats and want to build them a house out of Porsches?

      Everyone who wants kids and a job should be able to have both and thrive, but that doesn’t mean how they choose to spend their money is more valid than how someone without children chooses to spend theirs.

      1. lucanus cervus*

        This particular letter isn’t about colleagues without children, though. It’s about equity between parents, not between parents and non-parents. The sticking point is that almost all the parents working for the company spend a serious amount of money making sure that their kids don’t disrupt their work. Then there’s this one guy who doesn’t, and whose kid is at least somewhat disruptive as a result. Some of the other parents would probably very much appreciate a similar degree of flexibility, but can’t take it or at least don’t feel that they can – and part of WHY they can’t is that if they all did it, the disruption would go from minor to major. So it feels like they’re subsiding this guy’s unreliable childcare setup. That’s the ‘perk’.

        I do think it’s more complex than that – I’m just trying to sum up where I think LW is coming from. People without children don’t enter into the equation here, and absolutely no one is saying they get perks.

  44. Fish*

    I wonder what OP’s colleague has done/would do when his relative isn’t available for a week or more because of their own plans.

    Something like vacation, surgery, helping another relative or friend who needs temporary assistance. With the pandemic, has this come up for him yet?

    I also have the impression he brings his child into the office on his in-person days, only when his relative isn’t available.

  45. Link*

    I can think of two ways to frame this, aside from what Allison has mentioned.

    1st, If he’s bringing his child in to avoid childcare costs, or if there’s still a shortage in availability, how long is this going to take to spread/trickle down and everyone start doing this, provided their job description allows it to proceed that far, just to save on childcare, which is admittedly VERY expensive wherever you are right now.

    2nd, is Liability. Who’s at fault if the child gets hurt in any way and the parent decides to be vindictive against the company for whatever perceived reason, despite their own negligence if something should happen? If it’s a basic office job, chance of injury is low, but toddlers are always unpredictable, even in the safest of environments.

    If this is really a permanent bee in your bonnet, and you have no capital to spend on bringing this up in person or in a way that can track back to you, is there an anonymous complaint portal that you can submit something into?

    1. Dahlia*

      He has childcare, so he’s not avoiding that. OP doesn’t even know he’s not paying the family member providing that childcare.

  46. Aspiring Great Manager*

    It really boils down to the question of why should children not bet at their parent’s workplace? Usually 2 reasons: 1/no child labour, 2/so the adult can focus on their job. So, assuming the child is not actually being put to work AND the adult can focus on their job, then you have to reformulate the question, what is the problem you are seeking to solve?
    -Is it a safety problem that there is a risk of having the child at the workplace? that’s an Occupational Health and Safety matter
    – Is it that other people don’t get to bring their kids to work? then back to the beginning question.
    – Is it hard for others to focus with a kid around? is it because they are jealous or actually disturbed by shrieks (doesn’t read like it).
    – or what is the concern?

    Every job is different and some people get to have flexible schedules and others don’t. Some have more holiday because of seniority. Others have extra leave because they got married/got sick/etc. It’s always best to assume you don’t know the whole story and when you are seeking to solve a problem check if it maybe is a sadness one has to grieve for having different circumstances.

  47. Delta Delta*

    Because of how time works, this will solve itself. If kid is 3 now, that means he’s likely soon eligible for preschool/pre-k, and then kindergarten. When he brings kid to the office or kid wanders through zoom, it can feel unfair, and it’s fine to feel that way. But it’ll be over soon. You do you. If kid becomes disruptive or takes away from work, flag that and let management deal with it.

  48. Supermarketsweep*

    This reminds me of my old cleaning job at a boarding school. Us cleaners banded together to get more pay and were given a letter listing all the perks we got. One perk was “ability to bring pets to work”. Many of the teachers brought dogs every day, and left them in their offices. But us cleaners? What were we meant to do? Put them in the cleaning closet with the bleach? It amazed me how tone deaf they were.

  49. Seriously?*

    Toddlers need to be fed, have diapers changed, constantly supervised, entertained, soothed, etc. Work environments are not toddler safe. How is having his toddler at work not disruptive to his work and others? Is he the one actually doing all the work of taking care of his child at work? Or is he dumping it on others (usually women)?

  50. Free Meerkats*

    I say speak with the other parents who aren’t doing this and speak to management as a group. If nothing happens, one week everyone brings their children to work if they can do so safely for the child. I can almost guarantee something will come down from management the next day.

  51. Raine*

    I absolutely agree that bringing your kid to work as an emergency backup plan should be an “everyone can do this or no one can do this” kind of thing. And if this is happening regularly enough that it’s once a week or more then your coworker should have some kind of backup in place by now that isn’t bringing the kid to work. Whether that’s professional care or a neighbor who offers last minute babysitting. (Provided these are actually available in your location).

    But framing this as an equity issue feels weirdly off base to me. It sounds like this coworker wouldn’t be paying (or would not be paying as much) for childcare regardless of whether or not he was bringing the kid in, because his arrangement is with family and not a daycare. So it’s not like he’s using the office to get an 18k cash bonus no one else has access to, he would be saving that money regardless. And I think if you tried to take that route with their manager they would be quick to point that out.
    Even if they were forced to pay for once a week care, he would still be paying considerably less than you would for daily care.

  52. omg*

    Oh wow. That’s a health and safety thing at my job. No kids, because of insurance. (People can drop by for a visit but not for the whole workday.)

  53. Zee*

    I know we’re supposed to take letter writers at their word, but I wonder if the disruption is actually fairly limited, or if the situation is having a bigger impact on other employees than it is on OP and/or the OP just isn’t as bothered by the presence of kids (possibly because they have their own kids and are used to having them around).

    OP, if I worked there, I would definitely appreciate it if you and other employees who had kids spoke up. As someone who doesn’t have kids and doesn’t like kids, I would worry about getting pushback about how I “just don’t understand how hard it is for parents” or being branded as the mean kid-hating lady and having my very legitimate work concerns dismissed because of it.

  54. Megan*

    I want to add to the general child care conversation that in some places a child born in 2020 couldn’t even be added to a waiting list, because providers closed their lists to new applicants during lockdown.

  55. Working Mum*

    Very occasionally I have my toddler with me on calls while I WFH if childcare has fallen through. If I’m having to look after her while I work, I try to reschedule meetings or if I can’t, I keep my camera off so she’s not distracting people, set her up with screens/snacks/books/toys/literally anything to keep her occupied, and try to minimise the disruption. I’d never take her to my physical office though.

    Honestly this all depends on how often it happens. Occassionally? Fine, things happen. As an alternative to actual regular childcare? No

  56. Amy*

    I’d go to HR, point out you’ve observed that parents are allowed to care for children during work hours, and as children are brought to work and state that you would like to start doing the same. Bet HR quickly comes out with a policy. May be passive aggressive, but will force HR to examine and confirm what’s acceptable.

  57. Badass Lady*

    I guess for me this is more of a policy issue than this one instance issue. Assuming the child is not disruptive to OP, it would not be unreasonable for OP to ask for clarification about the guidelines for children’s presence at work in a post-pandemic world. Often being transparent and clear about policies solves a lot of equity issues. The result of asking for a policy will give everyone involved the ability to make informed decisions about childcare flexibility, including both OP and her coworker in question.

  58. Pam Poovey*

    I’m personally of the opinion that you shouldn’t be bringing your kids to work outside of legit emergencies or events where they’re specifically invited, but that’s probably seen as harsh.

  59. Justin D*

    I wouldn’t be OK with him bringing the kid to the office but I’d be sympathetic with the WFH part. I had coworkers with no child care during the pandemic (while I did) and I didn’t envy them at all. They would take care of their kids all day and then try to work in the evening.

  60. Anna3*

    Formally ask for the accommodation to bring your child to work, then act shocked that they are not letting you do it, when that male colleague has a free pass. Hint at gender inequality (he was allowed to, and I am not, is it because I am not a male?) and he will be quickly informed he cannot take his child to work.

    1. JB*

      Yea, this! 1000x! Another way to accommodate this kind of issue occasionally is by providing a certain number of backup care days funded by the company. We have this benefit through – you can find your own provider and get reimbursement, or use a provider or center on That seems a better solution than allowing toddlers run amuck at the office.

  61. Hemlock*

    I can’t believe a company wpild allow kids on premise just from a liability standpoint in case of injury.

  62. Connie*

    I taught at a public school and bri ging our children to work, even on pre/post school or planning days wasn’t allowed.
    Even on those non student days, I’m certain I wouldn’t have been as productive. But besides that, there are lots of considerations. What about an employee with six kids? Someone with a special needs child? What about babies and toddlers? Will the kids be using facilities generally reserved for adults (bathrooms, lunchroom, vending machines)? What about workers who share spaces? Our district’s concerns were safety and insurance which are understandable.

  63. Mmm.*

    Let’s be frank. The mere presence of a child is inherently distracting and can limit how situations and discussions are handled.

    The distraction has nothing to do with the kid’s behaviors and everything to do with a combination of wiring and social expectations. Most people, by nature, are on higher alert when a child is nearby in case they have to protect it from some kind of danger that lives in our ancient brains. Plus, we’re largely conditioned to smile and wave and entertain babies and toddlers. So, the disruption may not be obvious, but it’s happening. I ADORE babies and toddlers, so this has nothing to do with disliking them.

    And as the kid grows and increases in verbal abilities and just developmentally in general, they will become more distracting. They’re likely nearing tantrum age now.

    I do think this needs to be nipped in the bud now. I mean…a lot of states don’t even require kindergarten. He could feasibly do this until the kid is 6ish if no rules are out in place. I know it sounds slippery slope-ish, but if you could avoid paying thousands of dollars per year, wouldn’t you do that for as long as possible?

    I also think all large companies (and school systems…) should pay for childcare or offer it on-site. I don’t have kids and don’t plan to, but I would not feel jealous of those “perks” any more than I would feel jealous of someone taking bereavement leave during a busy season. Life is hard enough without work making it harder.

  64. Gene*

    I wonder 1) would the LW really want to bring their kid to work, 2) does the parent ever leave their kid unattended or ask another coworker to watch the kid, 3) are there enough working parents with young children at this workplace to warrant establishing a childcare solution at the office?

    And what about people with pets? can they bring pets to the office? I had a boss who brought a dog to the office – often asked other people to care for it or left it unattended for long stretches. It would whine frequently and go to the bathroom on the carpet. When faced with poop on the carpet at the entrance as clients and guests are walking by, boss claimed the dog wouldn’t do that. Well, I don’t think any of my coworkers pooped on the floor! So hopefully the LW’s coworker isn’t pushing childcare on any officemates.

    I had another boss who brought their pet to work. The first pet died of cancer, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happened again. It was a place that handled toxic material that wasn’t always disposed of properly, used dangerous chemicals, and the floor was always dirty. Workplaces can be inappropriate for children and pets.

  65. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    Being blunt–this would make me incredibly mad/agitated at work. I’m pro kids–I have three of my own and enjoy other people’s. Totally pro family, too–I love mine and see our extended family (all 12+ of them) at least once a week. But come on. You are at work. WORK. I love all those kids and family members outside of work, but ne’ar the twain shall meet.

    It would impact my productivity, too, because I’m worried that if the employee IS actually focused on the job their kid is being ignored/in danger. And if they are focused on the kid, they aren’t really at work.

Comments are closed.