my coworker brought seven plus-one’s to a work party

A reader writes:

I recently planned an office social hour at a local restaurant. My invite said “plus-ones are welcome, including kids, but please note you’ll be paying for your own guests.”

One coworker, Pam, brought her four kids, husband, mother-in-law, and nanny. Everyone else came alone or with one guest so, of the 19 of us at the event, eight were Pam’s family. Pam had to be there (she presented an award) and she paid for her family, but am I wrong in feeling that it was a social gaffe? Can/should I rephrase future invites to indicate that plus one means plus ONE?

This is an interesting twist on last month’s question from the polyamorous person who wanted to ask to bring both their partners to work events!

People normally know that “plus-one” means one unless they explicitly make other arrangements. However, I wonder if you inadvertently introduced ambiguity with the wording on your invitation: “plus-ones are welcome, including kids, but please note you’ll be paying for your own guests” contains a lot of plurals, and it’s possible that contributed to Pam reading it as “guests,” not “guest.”

Even then though … I think this is on Pam, not your invitation wording. She brought her mother-in-law and nanny to a work social hour? I could see bringing the kids along if she had no other child care for them, but that clearly wasn’t the case … and four kids, husband, mother-in-law, and nanny is a lot of additional guests for an event that otherwise had 11 people at it. When your guests make up 42% of the attendees at a work event, something is off. (It might be different if she were the one receiving the award — assuming it was a reasonably prestigious award and not, like, a Dundie — but she wasn’t.)

I’m curious whether Pam seemed to realize the mistake or whether it seemed just fine to her. It’s also possible there was some weird confluence of events that made it more convenient for her to bring everyone but which isn’t likely to be repeated.

In any case, normally you wouldn’t need to rephrase future invitations because this would normally not be a thing that would happen more than once. But since it did happen, in theory you could err on the side of more clarity in the future and write, “Plus-ones are welcome (one per employee)” or “(max of two per employee)” or whatever feels reasonable to you … but it’s not ideal because it means that if you’d normally welcome someone’s three kids but don’t want them dragging in-laws and nannies along, or if it would be fine for someone in a throuple to bring both their partners, this wording will potentially put up barriers you didn’t intend.

Realistically, I’d probably just wait to see if it happens again or not, and if it does then talk with Pam at that point … but otherwise assume people will generally get this right or at least mostly in the ballpark.

That said, normally I come down on the side of “if you have specific expectations in your head, be as clear as possible so people don’t have to guess.” In this case, though, it’s so unusual for “plus-one” to be interpreted as “plus-seven” that you don’t need to entirely change what you’re doing because of a single one-time outlier.

Read an update to this letter

{ 474 comments… read them below }

  1. Michael W. Scottified*

    What a weird event!

    Still, I’d assume it was a one-off, and although weird, didn’t actually do any harm to the organization.

    1. Emelius*

      My guess would be that they all live together in the same home so she considers them to be her immediate family. I don’t really see a problem with this since she was responsible for paying for all of them to be there. I might be a little strange, but I don’t see any reason to think anything more of it. no harm was done.

      1. A Poster Has No Name*

        OK, but 8 people is a lot. Enough to throw off reservations, assuming they were made, so it’s not out of line for Pam to have asked ahead of time if the group could accommodate that many extras.

        1. Everything Bagel*

          Yes, I agree with this. Adding on a group of eight people at a restaurant without first making sure it’s okay with the person organizing the event is thoughtless, inconsiderate, and just plain nuts. Is it possible Pam thought everyone would be bringing their entire extended families, like at a company picnic? How could she have thought that without the venue being an amusement park or public park? If 10 people each brought eight guests, where would the restaurant put them all? Did she think the entire restaurant was rented out for their event? So many questions.

          1. constant_craving*

            Social hour makes me think something casual like a happy hour. The most popular place my previous workplace did this was a restaurant with an outdoor patio. That patio typically had multiple different organizations having happy hours with 30-40 people. Sometimes bigger groups took up a larger portion of the patio. I would assume a social hour was going to be more like that than a small sit-down dinner.

            1. Jess*

              I agree that it sounds quite social. I also wonder how much the family interacted with Pam’s coworkers – when I’ve been at events with plus ones and kids, you’d often get the kids off to the side doing kid-stuff with their family/caregivers minding them, or chatting amongst themselves, rather than participating in work conversations.

              1. LW*

                OP here — I don’t think anyone meant it to go this way, but we ended up with two mini-parties of just Pam’s family on one side and just the coworkers on the other. Everyone seems to have put in an effort, but the kids understandably ignored the strange adults and just looked for attention from the adults they’d come with.

        2. Ahnon4Thisss*

          I’m guessing reservations were not made though because there was no RSVP (LW could have stopped Pam before this happened if Pam RSVP’d that many people) that they could base a number off of. The fact that they left the number of guests up in the air and told workers they’d have to pay for any additional guestS tells me they had plenty of wiggle room, maybe rented a room that the restaurant has for events. There are restaurants that have halls that can hold hundreds of people.

          You can’t give people an unlimited amount of guests then redact it when they show up with said guests. I think Pam interpreted this as a work event that many others would be bringing family to due to the wording and invitation of children. This was poor wording for this event and that is what should be addressed by the LW.

        3. mztery1*

          I’m surprised no one has seemed to comment that the WORDING was unclear – if kids were mentioned and you have 4, why not bring kid wranglers as well?

          1. DrD*

            This is my thought. She has four kids, is required to attend a “social event” (but for her it’s required because she has to present an award), the invite seems open and welcoming to her kids, and she knows she can’t watch them because she has to work. So she brings a bunch of other adults to help. I think this is on LW, and further that if Pam were in a poly group of, say, four adults with four kids, people would have a different attitude in this discussion. I also wonder if she has a different cultural background than the majority of the company.

            1. Puggles*

              Agreed. I first read it to mean plus ones, meaning more than 1, and if you said “kidS” as opposed to child, then all my kids and their grandma is coming to help me manage a them. And I would have just thought we would have a great room or patio with enough space to accommodate everybody.
              It could also be a cultural thing.

          2. Ellie*

            Yes, plus ones are welcome, including kids, says to me that your immediate family is welcome. I usually attend these things alone, but I would absolutely think it was fine to bring my husband and 2 children along, with an invitation like that. Given she has four kids, I can see why she also brought the Nanny, and if the MIL also lives with them, it would have been weird to exclude her.

            Since she paid for everyone, I really don’t see what the problem is. I’d just put it down to a quirk with an employee, and leave it at that. But I do think by the wording used, Pam didn’t do anything wrong.

      2. Lydia*

        My MIL lives with me, and it wouldn’t occur to me to include her in a work event that denoted a “plus one and kids”. It’s not an egregious mistake, but it’s a weird one that hopefully won’t happen again.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, agreed. It does sound like this person was an outlier and it’s extremely unlikely to happen again.

          That said, I’m very glad I’m in an environment where bringing spouses to company events isn’t a thing. I’m married but we aren’t joined at the hip and I certainly wouldn’t expect us to be treated as a unit in a work context, or even socially, with the single exception of weddings.

      3. AcademiaNut*

        From the way the invitation is worded, it could easily be interpreted as “bring your spouse and children, but you have to pay for them separately”. So if Pam showed up with her husband and four kids, it might be a bit startling (as four kids is more than most people have, particularly for women working full time with children young enough to need a babysitter), but the invitation doesn’t specifically say that you can only bring one guest, or a spouse plus one kid but no more.

        It’s bringing your MIL and the babysitter that push it into WTF territory – for a random work social event, the plus one is generally not your spouse’s parent, and you’d generally bring the kids, or leave them with the nanny, not bring the kids and the nanny.

    2. SusieQQ*

      The only “harm” I can think of is that it made people feel uncomfortable. Maybe they felt like they were at Pam’s party (to reiterate the point, almost half the people there were Pam’s guests) instead of at a work event. This is pure speculation though and a little bit of projecting because this has happened to me before and I resented feeling like an outsider at event for me (the employee) due to the overwhelming presence of non-employees.

      1. Artemesia*

        It makes you wonder about her judgment. If SHE was the one getting an important reward you could sort of understand it, but not just as a presenter. Very odd.

    3. Jade*

      The kids included made it seem like you could bring a guest AND your kids. Next time invitation needs to be more clear.

  2. This_is_Todays_Name*

    While Pam bringing “everyone” was a little weird, she DID pay for all of her own guests food/drink, so unless they were disruptive (kids running around, baby crying, MIL talking over the other presenters, etc…) I’d just assume it was weird and shrug it off. Maybe her hubby and MIL wanted to see her speech as she presented whatever award it was. I think once you open an invitation up with the words, “you will pay for your own guests,” you can’t get too upset if you get taken at your word…. Next time, specify the number *IF* it really matters.

    1. Parenthesis Guy*

      Presumably she brought the nanny to make sure that the kids aren’t running around. I actually think that’s smart as it lets her and her husband attend the event without having to watch their kids closely, but they could still let their coworkers meet their kids.

      1. DrSalty*

        This what I was thinking too. Nanny watches kids so mom and dad can have a nice grown up time. But then why bring MIL?

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            That’s where my mind went. The nanny and MIL are there to wrangle the four kids. Never underestimate the destructive powers of children when they’re in a “boring to them adult situation” is how I’ve always planned for when my kids had to do something “boring’ for whatever reason.

          2. Dawn*

            That, or MIL is technically another dependent.

            Not in the sense of like being a literal child, so’s that you’d notice, but in the sense of not being able to be left home alone.

            Once my grandmother reached a certain age we couldn’t leave her by herself. She was still relatively lucid for a while, but everytime she was left alone she decided she was fine to go down to the basement for something and fell down the stairs; it was either have a helper with her at all times or move her to assisted living.

          3. Tin Cormorant*

            Then why bring the kids? They must be bored out of their minds at a work event. If you’re bringing two additional adults to help watch the kids, why not leave those adults and the kids at home and go to the work event with just the husband?

            1. dawbs*

              There can be, oddly enough, a LOT of social pressure to bring kids too.

              Think of every movie/tv show/etc where the singing VonTrapp children are trotted out to smile nicely, shake hands, make the boss look/feel important, and then go away.

              It’s no win. I had people at my previous job get REALLY pushy that the kid never came to visit, without recognizing that I’d have to make the commute on a day off or else attempt to baby-mind and work for an entire day. When my parents finally brought her to an event for me people who missed her asked when she was coming again…
              It’s possible they were all just being polite (although I’ll admit that I enjoy seeing othere people’s kids. I keep toys at my desk), but there’s still pressure there.

            2. Allison Wonderland*

              Since the invite specified “including kids,” she may have thought there would be lots of other kids there and that if she didn’t bring them, people might ask, “oh, where are your kids?” The wording of the invite was definitely confusing!

              1. workingfromhome*

                This has happened to us (my family) twice. First time: husband’s work was having a Christmas Party (it was a big evening party, very nice) and most people brought spouses. I had a very tiny baby and when husband said why it would only be him, they encouraged us to bring baby, “that was normal, lots of people bring kids.” Baby was one of 2 kids, people acted weird that she was there, it was uncomfortable, but fine we didn’t repeat that ever. Second time: same workplace, different event, sporting event during an afternoon, it was for everyone, super encouraged to bring now both kids, etc. So we, and again, one other employee bring family and again, people were weird and it was uncomfortable. At this “family invited” event, most people didn’t even bring spouses or SO’s. Never again. If you don’t want families (kids) don’t ask them.

                1. allathian*

                  Yeah, that really is weird. Invites should say what the host means so guests don’t have to second-guess themselves. If kids are welcome, make them feel welcome and make sure the parents know the kids are truly welcome. If you can’t do that, don’t invite them.

            3. constant_craving*

              Kids aren’t merely a logistical issue. Many people like to spend time with their kids. There are only so many hours in a day and after-hours work events cut into family time.

            4. DrD*

              You bring the kids because the invite makes it sound like you are welcome to do so, and potentially even pressured or requested to do so. I have kids and there can be a lot of “oh, bring the kids so we can meet them / see how grown up they are” etc.

        1. Parenthesis Guy*

          I wonder if this was held after the workday at around dinner time. If so, maybe Pam just figured that instead of her eating at one place and the rest of the family eating somewhere else, they’d all just eat together. They like having family dinners together.

          Or maybe as others have mentioned, the MIL was from out of town, and they wanted to spend as much time as possible together.

          I don’t know. We’re guessing. But I also don’t think it matters that much. I mean, as long as you’re bringing 7 people already, is it that big of a deal to bring 8?

        2. A Simple Narwhal*

          I figured it was to watch the kids – one adult to four kids can be a lot, especially in a public setting.

          1. Pat*

            And the invitation said kids were welcome. They just happened to have 4 instead of 1 or 2. So with the kids and the “+1” husband, that’s 6 with 1 person to watch 4 kids. I don’t have any kids, but I can understand why she thought it was fine to bring kids, husband, and nanny, and then what does one more person matter? It doesn’t seem like it was a big imposition, just that the OP was surprised and not thrilled about it.

            1. Petty_Boop*

              Yeah once you say “kids are welcome” in an invitation, that really makes the whole “Plus One” thing ambiguous, I think. If the presenter had expected the company to pick up the tab for ALL the guests, well then yeah, be offended but she didn’t, and the OP said nothing about anyone misbehaving, just that it felt off to her. I think within the wording of the invitation, it was fine.

            2. LW*

              This is OP. A clarification: I specified “kids welcome” in the invite because the person receiving the award is a single parent, and it would’ve felt rude to hold an evening event that she couldn’t bring her son to. I also wanted to clarify in the invite that the venue called [City] Brewpub is kid-friendly, since the name sounds like it could be just a bar while in reality it’s a restaurant with an affiliated brewery.

              That said, I am definitely workshopping the wording of the next invite!

              1. Boof*

                Well, as a parent who works a lot and likes spending time with my 3 kids when i can, i would probably take it at face value that my kids were actually welcome, not just someone else’s, and might bring them!

        3. This_is_Todays_Name*

          I assumed MIL lives with them, or is visiting for a period of time and it felt rude to leave her at home?

      2. This_is_Todays_Name*

        …hence me saying “unless they were being disruptive […] I’d shrug it off.”

    2. Jamboree*

      I was wondering if the award was meaningful enough that the presenter wanted her family to share the memory with her? It doesn’t really sound that way, and a pet peeve of mine is when the commentariat creates a complicated backstory.

    3. Argyle Hats*

      Nothing was disrupted, and it didn’t cost the company anything. I’m on Team Life’s Rich Tapestry with this one.

      1. Shoes*


        I do understand that 7 people can feel like a lot, but, as many have noted, the invite did not explicitly prohibit 7 people. Further, paying for your extra guests was an option.

        As person, who has to detail with people, I struggle with the idea that everybody doesn’t interpret things the same way I would thus I have to be explicit with my expectations.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Normally I’d agree, but it’s pretty weird to have your family be almost 50% of the event attendees! The event itself seems so small that I guess I don’t really get why you’d be inviting a plus-1 to begin with? That’s only about 7 people who are actually from your work? How is this an event in the first place? Neither here nor there, I know, but hardly seems worth bringing along 7 others (when the nanny and MIL and 4 kids could have gone somewhere less boring for the kids).

          1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

            The math on this is so bizarre I’m trying to wrap my head around how this makes sense to bring 7 plus ones to such a small gathering. I feel like this is one of those logic puzzles. But in the end, it seems like a weird dynamic to go to a work event with less than 20 people, 4 of them are children, and 7 are JUST the family members of one person. I wonder about the normality of bringing kids to events, what sort of restaurant this is, and how much work related business (awards presented, discussions of sales/earnings/etc) went on.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              Right? Full company picnic outdoors with tons of people? Bring your 7 ‘plus-ones’!!! Very small gathering where there is food but not for people outside the company and there is an award being presented? Seems like less of an event you’d want to bring 7 other people to!

            2. Anna*

              It doesn’t seem that bizarre to me given the wording of the invitation. Since it said kids were welcome, it would be weird for her to pick one kid to bring and leave three at home. Similarly, if I see that kids are welcome, I would assume that means kids and spouses, I wouldn’t assume i was supposed to pick between bringing my kid vs. my husband. And then at that point, she has no way of knowing that the other employees are not assuming the same thing, so she can’t know in advance that her family will be 40% of the attendees– she probably assumes that everyone is bringing their kids, so that the whole event is going to be bigger. If the number on the reservation is an issue, then the event organizer needs to ask for an RSVP with head count in advance.

              1. Everything Bagel*

                Maybe, but the gathering was at a local restaurant, which I’m assuming is not a large enough place where you might have 80 people show up for dinner without having to have had a head count beforehand in order to make the reservation. it’s probably a good thing everybody didn’t bring their extended families.

                1. Everything Bagel*

                  Shoes, I’m rethinking this! After reading some other comments here, I can see how Pam might have made her own assumptions about the event. I think the letter writer can probably now see that her future invitations need to be very explicitly worded.

                2. Shoes*

                  Everything Bagel I have been surprised at how strongly some seem to feel about this question and the rationale for there opinions.

              2. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

                I don’t know- given that the letter writer thought it was off the mark enough to ask an Internet advice column about it, I’d assume that 1) it was unusual for the workplace; 2) Pam was new and didn’t know the norms (but where is it normal to bring 4 kids, a mother-in-law, and a nanny to a work gathering?); 3) this was an atypical event and normally, this many family members are invited to all events; or 4) this office had never done outside of work gatherings and this was a new and exciting diversion into planning.

                I don’t have kids and no one I know has more than one so I can’t speak from current experience, but having been raised in a very Catholic area where it was the norm to have multiple children and anywhere from 7 to 9 were the outliers, but still around, I can’t remember ANYONE I knew attending a parent’s work event that wasn’t the local multi-national conglomerate renting out the nearest amusement park and inviting what felt like half the city. I’ve also never worked anywhere that had a work event that the plus one wasn’t a spouse or adult friend- no one has ever brought children to a work event, especially one that was at a restaurant. I’m not saying I can’t imagine it- I’m just saying I that if I had four kids, I wouldn’t expect that four kids, a nanny, and a mother-in-law would all be welcome, especially if the invitation said, “plus one.” One extra adult and two children maybe I could see, but 7 extra people seems excessive, even if she did pay for them.

            3. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

              I just can’t get the math out of my head. Could Pam’s family been more than the total amount of employees at the event?

              19- total people
              7- members of Pam’s family
              1- Pam
              1- LW
              10- People left

              I’m fascinated to know what the ratio of guests vs. employees are because, depending on how many people didn’t bring a plus one, there is a possibility that the guests there were more than the employees, but also that Pam’s family alone was more than or equal to the number of employees. I think that’s what’s holding me up about this- that there could be so few employees.

              Commenters are assuming that this was a large gathering or a large restaurant where there’s a stage, but I keep envisioning this as a small, causal restaurant where maybe just one award was being presented. We really need LW to update us with a headcount. :)

              1. LW*

                This is OP! I can tell you that you’re about right. It was

                19- total people:
                7- members of Pam’s family
                1- Pam
                1- me
                7- employees
                2- spouses
                1- additional kid (a teenager)

                So counting me and Pam, we had 9 employees and 10 guests. I invited 12 employees and assumed each might bring a guest or two, so the restaurant was prepared for up to 25 of us. Again, the social hour was fine and nothing went too wrong, but if all 12 employees had each brought 7 plus-ones then it would’ve been a logistical nightmare.

          2. saskia*

            You’re assuming Pam knew only a few people from work would be there and that the number of her family members would dwarf the other attendees. Why do you think she’d know this ahead of time?

            1. Everything Bagel*

              It was the office’s social hour at a local restaurant, so I’d assume Pam knows how many people work in her office. If everyone was invited to bring their entire extended family, the organizer would probably have asked in advance how many are coming. I’m guessing or rather hoping for Pam’s sake that this was something that she really didn’t think through but realized when she got to the restaurant that this is not what was intended.

              1. saskia*

                OK, but the issue isn’t the number of coworkers; it’s the number of plus-ones. Since the invitations were vague, Pam could’ve believed each person had the right to bring more than one guest. She wouldn’t know each coworker’s number of +1s.

          3. Argyle Hats*

            “it’s pretty weird to have your family be almost 50% of the event attendees!”

            How was Pam supposed to know ahead of time that her guests would amount to almost 50% of the attendees?

            I just can’t get worked up about this. Seems like an incredibly small deal.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              But as someone who was presenting an award, surely Pam had an idea of how big this event was going to be? The group doesn’t sound big to begin with, so even 10 people in the dept bringing one person would 1-only be 20 people and 2-not really sounding like a fun family event to bring the kids to!
              I’m not sure I think it’s a huge faux pas that Pam did this, more than I’m taken aback that she thought her family would even care to attend? And if she has her nanny and MIL, why drag the kids to a work/awards dinner instead of shipping them off to do something more fun?

              1. Louise*

                Yeah but since kids-plural were explicitly welcome, there’s no reason for Pam to think her four would be the only ones there. So she’s got four kids plus a spouse, already 5. If there are 10 employees each of whom have one child and one spouse, that’s 30 people. It’s easy to get to 50-ish people when you’re inviting spouses and children, even in a small office, which 1) makes 8 less noticeable and 2) isn’t unreasonable if they rented part of the restaurant out. I used to waitress in Manhattan and people would pretty regularly come in with groups of 25 no reservation and we just pushed tables together. For a planned work event with families explicitly invited, expecting 30-50 people to be there is not ridiculous. It ended up not being that way, but the comments here seem to be taking it as a given that less than 20 people would be there and that Pam did something wrong. She’s got a large family and she paid for their dinner. I’m not convinced it even rises to the level of odd, let alone a social faux paux.

          4. Sharpie*

            It’s possible that this was a larger event that the company was only a small part of… But in that case I can’t see how even Pam would have thought it OK to bring husband + MIL + kids + nanny…

    4. umami*

      Yes, it seems odd, but not … wrong? I wonder if they were going to dinner after the social hour. In the future, it might make sense to mention needing to know a number to ensure there is space for seating.

      1. Argyle Hats*

        I agree with “odd but not wrong.” Everything that is odd doesn’t have to be a thing. Don’t say anything to Pam, and just let it go.

    5. Mae*

      I think the wording of the invitation was ambiguous – I definitely interpreted it as a family event because it said you can bring your spouse and also mentioned kids.

    6. Ethel*

      when you say you can bring kids, parents hear “this is a family event for the whole family.” Did oop really think a parent would choose to bring their child and not the other parent, or just one child and not the other, and no one to mind the child while the worker was participating in the event? don’t invite kids if you dont want the whole family.

  3. Czhorat*

    Reading the “including kids” and “pay for your own guests”, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume the invitation is for your partner and your children, but I’d ask first. Having the +1’s bring their own +1’s is where I think Pam went a bit amiss, because that kind of thing usually doesn’t chain. What if the +1’s +1’s had +1’s?

    In this case I’m sure Pam noticed that, as Allison said, she was responsible for over a third of the attendance. She’s quiet likely quietly mortified about it, and I’d hope she doesn’t misstep this way again.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      She brought her nanny. Who in their right mind thinks that a +1 for a work social event includes a nanny? It’s very likely she’s not mortified about it, because this is not normal behavior to begin with. Pam is clearly living on a different kind of air.

      1. Jessica*

        If you’ve brought 4 kids to a work function where you’re supposed to be doing work things and won’t be able to give them your full attention, especially if the kids are small, I can understand why bringing the nanny along seemed like a good plan.

        1. Ashley*

          And honestly with 4 kids depending on the ages a second / third adult isn’t the worst planning since she had to present an award. Personally if the kids were that level of needing help I would probably not take them places, but 1:1 ratio in some settings with some kids is definitely necessary.
          I think the real question is next time are you open to having kids at the event. If you are winning a non-Dundie award having your kids there might be nice, but maybe limit who is told they can bring their children.

        2. me again*

          Why bring four kids in the first place? And you have a nanny? This “work” event was turned into a family event for this clueless person. I would have been annoyed, nanny or no nanny.

          1. DrD*

            You would be annoyed that someone followed the invite as worded because everyone is supposed to somehow know that bring your kids doesn’t mean that? If you (LW) don’t want to see people’s kids at an event like this, don’t invite kids. If you (me again) don’t want to see people’s kids, don’t go to events that explicitly invite them. It would have all been worse without the nanny if the nanny is good at their job.

        3. Rocket Raccoon*

          I took a babysitter to my sister’s wedding (with her blessing). My husband and I were both part of the wedding, we have 3 kids, babysitter was the difference between chaos and having a good time.

          1. ElizabethJane*

            yeah but your kids are family and we’re probably expected at the wedding, which is a family function. Unless it’s billed as a family friendly picnic or something kids aren’t expected at a work event.

            1. Happy meal with extra happy*

              …the invite specifically mentions kids, so of course they’re expected here.

              1. ElizabethJane*

                “welcome” and “expected” are very different things.

                I expected my niece at my wedding. It was exciting that she was there and it would have been weird if she wasn’t.

                If kids are welcome at an event it’s fine if they’re there, maybe a bit exciting, and barely remarkable if they aren’t.

                1. HannahS*

                  I’m sorry, that kind of hair-splitting on an invitation is just cruel. You want people to decipher if their +1 or kids, who are cited in the invitation, is welcome versus expected? Say what you mean. It’s a work event, not the Governor’s Ball.

                2. Hiring Mgr*

                  “If kids are welcome at an event it’s fine if they’re there”

                  So what’s the problem?

            2. Just Another Fed*

              The invitation literally says “including kids.” Turning around and claiming that kids “aren’t expected” is a bit weird. If you explicitly invite kids, you should expect kids

              1. ElizabethJane*

                My point is there’s a difference between “kids are welcome and we won’t be surprised if they are here” (the work event) and “kids should definitely be at this wedding and it will be weird if they aren’t here” (a work event).

                For the record I don’t think Pam is fully in the wrong for bringing literally everyone and their mother. However I also don’t think Pam’s interpretation of the invitation is the norm. Most people with 4 children and a mother in law would think “I should probably just bring my spouse”.

                Point being Pam definitely followed the letter of the law but OP is absolutely justified in thinking it’s weird.

              2. ElizabethJane*

                and one final thought. I don’t actually think bringing 4 kids is what made it weird. I think it’s the nanny and the MIL.

                And here’s where my clarification on “expected vs welcome” matters.

                The comment I replied to originally said “I brought my nanny to my sister’s wedding”. I agree with this action. Because a wedding is different than a work event. It’s totally reasonable to say “my kids definitely should be at this family wedding but I’ll need help managing them is a nanny the right choice”. Kids are strongly expected to be at a wedding. It would be weird/ruffle feathers/cause a family fight (maybe) if they didn’t attend.

                It’s less reasonable to say “I’ll need help managing my kids at this work event I’ll bring the nanny”. Nobody will think it’s weird if your kids aren’t at the work event. At that point you have childcare arranged. The more widely accepted judgment call here would be to just leave the kids at home. Or see what other coworkers are doing and ask if the nanny should come. Again, Pam wasn’t wrong but it was a bit odd.

                This whole sub thread started because someone said “but I did it for a wedding”. My counter argument wasn’t “How dare Pam” but “weddings and work dinners are fundamentally different and that’s not a fair comparison”

                1. allathian*

                  There are childfree weddings where kids are explicitly not invited, presumably because guests are expected to drink themselves to a stupor and it would be unpleasant and possibly unsafe for any kids to be there. But people who organize such weddings shouldn’t take offence if parents decline such invitations, and guests who decide to bring their kids anyway shouldn’t take offence at being shown the door. But if you organize a childfree wedding, the rules should be the same for everyone, including members of the wedding party, or there *will* be hard feelings.

                  Other than that, I agree with you, it’s not fair to compare weddings and work events, they’re so different.

                  Unless explicitly stated otherwise, kids are generally welcome at weddings. Some couples even pay for a babysitter so that parents can enjoy at least the early parts of the reception, and more importantly, so that any younger single women or older teenage girls aren’t expected to keep an eye on the kids so the parents can party.

                  That said, I must admit that I wouldn’t have been comfortable with the situation if I’d been one of Pam’s coworkers. A large company picnic where most people bring family, sure! A small event at a restaurant where Pam’s family makes up nearly half of the guest list? Not so much.

                2. LW*

                  OP here — I agree! It’s not 100% rational, but the nanny and mother-in-law are what pushed me into discomfort. It felt excessive to go beyond bringing one fellow adult and all your kids, especially for a smaller event. At that point it seems more reasonable to leave everyone, or everyone but your husband, at home.

                  That said, it would be arbitrary and rude to draw a line in writing about non-immediate family, and it also doesn’t feel fair to those with large families to put a number on allowed guests. I like Alison’s advice to wait and see if it happens again before committing to a rewrite of the invitations.

            3. JR*

              Except that OP said kids were welcome – Pam understood that it was billed as a family friendly event, which apparently wasn’t the OP’s intention. The social convention of plus ones is based on the idea that a social unit is a couple, so you can bring the other half of your social unit. (Of course, as Alison notes, this doesn’t work for everyone.) But usually when your kids are invited, all of your kids are invited – so when Pam saw kids were welcome, I don’t think it was a leap that she thought it meant she could bring her family, as opposed to one member of her family. Obviously, that wasn’t the vibe, and she probably felt awkward! But I don’t think she was being clueless, I think a lot of people would have read the OP’s language in the same way.

              1. umami*

                I agree. That is why I am always on staff about clarity of meaning in communications (because that’s our field) – you can assume people ‘know’ what you mean, and sometimes it takes an event such as this to realize there is too much ambiguity in what you said. So, you fix it. You don’t blame the person who misunderstood what you meant when your message could easily be read more than one way.

              2. Czhorat*

                Yeah. If my work had an event that said “+1’s, inluding kids” I wouldn’t expect to have to choose between my wife and ONE of my kids; that would be weird.

              3. Anecdata*

                Yeah, I think it’s pretty reasonable to read “plus ones and kids” as basically “your household as a unit is invited”.

              4. Bagpuss*

                I wonder too, whether there were fewer other people there than Pam had expected? 8 out of 19 people is a lot to be one person’s guests, but if all/most of the other employees had also brought along a partner and/or a child or two, of if more employees had attended, then while Pam’s family would still be a big group, it wouldn’t have stuck out as much – if they had been 8 out of (say) 35 people it wouldn’t have been as overwhelming .

                I recall years ago my then employer hosted a BBQ – there was one person who came with 8-10 extra people (mostly kinds and grandkids, I think, plus a sister who had worked for the company in the past and her child) but there were enough other people including partners and children of other employees that it wasn’t a big deal, even though siblings and grandchildren weren’t really the ‘partners and children’ who had been explicitly invited!

              5. AngryOctopus*

                I feel like “kids are welcome” is more like “okay you have a kid and your spouse is coming to this event too, kid welcome to be here so you don’t have to find care”, or whatever fits. Pam has a nanny and an MIL for the kids.
                I guess my biggest issue with this whole thing is not necessarily that she brought 7 people to an event. It’s that the event is SO SMALL that her people were almost half of the attendance! And that makes me think that it’s not a fun time for the kids, so why weren’t they just shipped off somewhere with the nanny and MIL? It’s not even like Pam was receiving an award–she was presenting! I am willing to bet my salary that there’s no way this award is prestigious enough (see: tiny number of people at event) to justify wanting to bring your kids to see you present it. It’s just so strange to me!

                1. Anna*

                  But kids don’t care about whether the award is prestigious! They’re there because the event SOUNDED family friendly from the invitation. And it didn’t sound particularly small from the invitation, so she couldn’t have known in advance that her party would be almost half of the attendance. From what is described, if I was Pam, I would have assumed the company had rented out a banquet room in the restaurant, and the exact number of guests doesn’t matter. If they hadn’t done that, and instead had a reservation for a specific number of guests such that her 6 guests were going to affect the overall party, then they should have asked for RSVPs and a head count ahead of time, and then the organizers could have addressed this before it became a concern.

              6. Allison Wonderland*

                Yeah, I’m still confused by the invite wording. Did it mean she can bring her spouse and all her kids, but the MIL and nanny was too much? Or is it literally plus ONE — so she could bring her husband or ONE of her kids??

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Yes, but your kids would also be family/relatives of your sister. A work party isn’t really the same thing.

            If I thought I needed to take my MIL and nanny along to child-wrangle, I would take that as a sign that I should leave all six of them home and just bring my husband.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Yes, this. Either you can care for your children effectively during the event (in which case you don’t need MIL and nanny) or you need to give the event your full attention (in which case you don’t take the children).

              I’m really surprised by this, but I think the weirdness could have been avoided if OP had simply asked for numbers ahead of time (“we can accommodate plus-ones but please let me know numbers by the end of the Friday huddle”). As soon as Pam said “there will be eight of us” OP could then have pushed back as gently or as forcefully as needed (“oh it’s not really that kind of occasion”).

            2. English Rose*

              Exactly! I’m bent out of shape at the moment because I’ve spent two work hours this afternoon having to interact with a co-worker’s smelly baby, but in this situation Pam is being unimaginative at best, rude at worst.
              Next time OP, lock the wording on the invite down tight and try not to open invites to kids if you can avoid it.

            3. Lydia*

              This. I was trying to figure out why the nanny and MIL to child-wrangle was missing the mark for me, and this is exactly why.

      2. Dawbs*

        the nanny is the most understandable to me.
        People at work will tell you how much they want to see your kids, want to meet your kids, you need to show off your kids…and, I’ll confess as a parent, I occasionally want to show off my kid (I’m clearly biased, but she’s one of my favorite people! And she’s witty and articulate with adults. [and I say that knowing that I have now doomed myself to a teenager who swears and sulks at the next work-related thing she comes to–because she’s also quite capable of being *that* kid]).
        But in spite of all the noise of “when do we get to see your kid next?”, it’s HARD to bring kids places!

        If I were taking her, at age 5, to an event where I’d be busy, it seems logical to bring childcare–kinda like nursing moms who have to take their kid and nanny to a conference because otherwise kid is unattended and unfed.

        That piece seems like it’s not normal, but I think SHOULD be. If kids are welcome, someone has to watch out for their safety and behavior.

        (Either that or places that invite kids should be willing to provide childcare–although that’s it’s own challenge and deserves it’s own discussion. I work at an educational nonprofit where all of the staff deals w/ all sorts kids on the regular and yet my kid’s special needs make enrolling her in our [accessible] programs a bit of a minefield)

        1. KateM*

          Mmh, my employer once announced an event specially for kids up to 12, all during working day, no other adults than the employees, you still have to manage your full day of work as well.

      3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Or, theory three: and did everything she could so that her kids and her company could have a good time because she thought she was SUPPOSED to/HAS to bring kids.
        Then she gets there to see it’s date night with some work involved, that other’s didn’t bring the whole fam-damily and she is somewhere between mortified and mad.

        1. Me...Just Me*

          Yes! As a presenter, Pam wanted it to go well and brought her family to a “family friendly event” that nobody else brought their family to. She was being supportive and it turns out it has backfired. I’d be upset if I were her.

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          I agree with this in spirit AND in letter. In fact, I was thinking the very words, “whole fan-damily”!

      4. New Jack Karyn*

        This seems unkind. The wording of the invitation was ambiguous, and LW did not speak to anything about Pam’s reaction to the situation. You have no idea whether she was mortified, not in her right mind, from a different planet, etc.

    2. Spicy Tuna*

      Yeah, if the +1 in your invitation includes kids, then it’s not a stretch in my mind to assume that all of an employee’s kids are invited. I mean, would you make them choose just one of their children?

      1. me again*

        Then the event turns into something else other than work-related. Unless it’s clearly social like a company picnic, sorry but not all of everybody’s kids don’t belong there regardless of who is paying. Even then, it is reasonable to not bring all your children if you have infants or toddlers.

        1. umami*

          Since it’s labeled as ‘social hour’, it sounds like a very casual event. It seems weird to say ‘plus one’ and also to say ‘including kids’, because ‘plus one’ generally means an adult. So it’s weird to think no one could misread this as ‘kids are invited’. I’m not quite sure what the OP even means by ‘including kids’; did they mean an adult kid as a plus one? If so, why even mention kids at all if the plus one is any adult of the invitee’s choosing?

          1. KateM*

            I’m guessing OP meant it as “plus one, who may be your kid (in case you don’t have an adult to bring – for example being a single parent), but I agree that the wording reads like “please bring all your family”. And I also believe Pat is mortified and won’t dare to bring any family member to any work occasion ever again. :)

        2. MeepMeep123*

          Well, but then you don’t invite kids. Or you say “Bring one child per family, and only if they’re over the age of 7”. If you are actively inviting an employee’s kids, why the surprise that the event includes kids?

      2. B*

        In fact I think the most natural reading of that is “bring your family,” because it’s pretty strange to say you can bring a kid but only if you don’t bring your spouse.

      3. Sunflower*

        Kids don’t count as a plus-one, that interpretation would be just bizarre. I’d guess she assumed more people would also be bringing kids, and just was out of sync with what the event turned out to be.

        MIL and nanny both was, as people are saying, probably to watch (the equivalent of) two kids apiece. The fact that she has enough kids that double childcare was needed is probably a sign that she should have brought fewer of them or none, but I’d be surprised if she didn’t realize that once she was already there and it was too late.

        1. Spicy Tuna*

          I guess I interpret +1 to literally mean ONE. I’m sure Pam realizes the error and wouldn’t do this again, however I think the invitation phrasing is the biggest issue here.

    3. Looper*

      Also, it’s called a “social hour” but non-employees are welcome at all and also an award is being presented? I am confused by every aspect of this event. I do think Pam was a bit off in the number of people she brought, but I also don’t think she was given clear information about what this event was supposed to be.

      1. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and one fell out*

        If I accepted an invitation that mentioned “kids” I would bring my (one) spouse and all or none of my kids (the only exception being if less then all of them were interested or if one of them had a conflict). The mother in law is a bit much but other than that – it’s really not clear to me what OP was expecting people to do (or not do) based on the wording of the invitation.

    4. Sloanicota*

      Yeah it’s not clear to me if Pam knew how many people would be there. I agree it’s not great to be a third of all the attendees, but presumably she thought there would be more folks and it wouldn’t be so noticeable.

    5. The Person from the Resume*

      Pam’s interpretation was a bit odd (so I understand the LW’s surprise), but she followed the LW’s instructions with said “plus-ones” (plural!) and “guests” (plural!).

      Once you have a nanny who can watch the kids, the kids should stay home. Plural seems more to allow the spouse to attend and bring the child which one of the parents have to care for so the only way they can come is with the child.

      I do wonder is Pam’s family all joined the main work table or if the MIL, nanny, and children sat somewhere else. It really seems like the event has little meaning for them whereas for the partner it’s to meet to coworkers and colleagues. So that would have been a better way to do it too.

    6. Carlie*

      Agreed – sounded like partner and however many children they have to me. I’d avoid any language like “plus-ones” and just state “each employee can bring up to two guests” or “can bring one guest”.

      1. LW*

        OP here — I like that language a lot! I agree with Alison and the commenters that it’s tough to lay down a single firm rule without excluding a coworker who’s poly, or a single parent, or something else. But “each employee can bring a guest or two” seems like a good way of putting it.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      I would read the plurals together with the mention of kids and would assume it’s a more-the-merrier, family friendly event. To me it reads as “bring your household”. Now, most people don’t have a nanny and mother in law as part of the household, but if you do, you do. You’re not going to consider excluding them, especially if you need the kid help and you’re covering costs to boot. I read the title expecting someone being given a typical plus one invitation, phrased in the singular who brought friends/extended family to mooch, but the invite is the place where it was suggested it was okay to bring the kids and household in general. Obviously OP didn’t mean it that way, but I think the wording was confusing. In the future I’d just say “Everyone can bring a guest but please let me know in advance who you’re bringing as your plus one, as the venue/caterer has a capacity limit and so I can prepare for the correct numbers”.

      1. Sunflower*

        I agree, and Pam likely thought if other coworkers were bringing kids too, bringing hers would be additional bonding.

        This doesn’t read like someone who chronically thinks it’s ok to bring the whole fam damily to inappropriate events. I think it’s someone who read the invitation, applied it to her (larger than others’) personal situation, and ended up being the odd one out when no one else brought kids.

    8. No Longer Working*

      I agree, she might have been mortified to realize she was the only person whose entire family was there!
      There also may have been an extenuating circumstance where she didn’t plan to bring them all, but then something happened that made doing so the best solution to the problem.

  4. the-honey-eater*

    Weird, awkward, and delightful. We can all have an entertaining low-stakes question today, as a treat.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Definitely a different level:
        I’m coming to social hour and bringing my four kids!

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I remember when my cousin visited me, and she asked when she was going to meet my coworkers. I looked at her like she had five heads. “I’m pretty sure my office doesn’t think I have parents let alone a cousin.”

      I keep my worlds separate! But people who constantly mix the two fascinate me.

      1. Lydia*

        I just got lightheaded imagining my mother meeting my coworkers, let alone my cousin meeting them. Just. No. Never. Not.

  5. HonorBox*

    This is definitely an odd thought process. I might lean toward saying something to Pam. Not in a confrontational way, but rather casually at some point. “Hey, I know the invite said plus one, including kids, but next time bringing seven people would be a little much.” You don’t need to make it a large deal, but to ensure it isn’t a recurring occurrence, it would be helpful to head it off at the pass.

    1. ferrina*

      I dont’ think LW necessarily needs to say anything. It sounds like there’s a lot of random contributing factors. Pam likely won’t be winning an award on a regular basis, and it doesn’t sound like this is something that she’s done at other events. It also makes a difference if she’s new the organization and/or hadn’t been to one of these events before- if she doesn’t have much context for the norms, she’s more likely to guess wrong (especially if her family/social culture was different and/or she’s ND. Not saying either of those are the case, just that those can be contributing factors when someone is trying to guess at social norms).
      If Pam has regular strange social interactions, maybe say something. But if this is an anomoly for Pam, she probably sensed the awkwardness and already knows it was a faux pas.

    2. Scarlet Ribbons in her Hair*

      Since they were told to that plus ones, including kids, were welcome, that would mean (to me) that it would be okay for Pam to bring her SO and at least two kids. Since there was no limit provided on the number of kids someone could bring, what if she had brought her SO and six kids? Would she have been told that seven people were a little much? How can you tell people that plus ones and kids are welcome, and tell them afterwards that they brought too many people? A restriction on the number of guests should have been provided in the invitation.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        It’s ok to bring kids and a date if you pay for them yourselves.
        “No, not like that.”
        it’s not about the number of people being too many, it’s about the connection to OP being “wrong.” But is it wrong when it’s the best thing for the family, the kids, the coworkers and the restaurant staff?
        It’s oddly genius.
        Like “the test is open notes. What ever you can fit on a 3×5 card.” And one guy shows up with 3’x5′ poster board.

        1. Sunflower*

          I’d say she appropriately took “pay for your own kids” as “provide watchers for your own kids”, and just happens to have enough kids that that requires more people. Everyone/OP would have been way more aggravated if she brought all their kids and no extra childcare adults.

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            I think she is the hero we all need. Everyone should be so foward thinking! No wonder she got an award.

              1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

                Misread that. That really explains why she came and had the kids under double not secret probation. Not knowing the politics of her office, but knowing people, “I couldn’t present the award to someone else because I couldn’t get a sitter.”
                We said bring the kids!

    3. Jess*

      Ehh, I don’t think anything does need to be said. What will be gained except for making Pam feel awkward? Better to just make sure that any future events (which probably wouldn’t be following all the exact same parameters anyway) are clearer about plus-ones, RSVPs etc.

  6. Circus Monkey*

    I see no issues since she paid for all her family involved….if the dinner was on you and she was free loading…..that would have been an issue.

    1. Rachel*

      The issue is that the event becomes Pam’s family and everybody else, not a work event.

      Capping the number of guests allowed means the employees are all more or less on even footing, allowing for a range of guests opens up the possibility of an event shifting focus to the person (or people) who bring a lot of guests.

      1. me again*

        Yep, doesn’t matter who pays, I would not want to be stuck possibly socializing with Pam’s mother in law. No.

        1. ADidgeridooForYou*

          I mean, to be fair, what’s the difference between being “stuck” socializing with a coworker’s MIL vs. another coworker’s spouse? Because the MIL is presumably older? Pam brought a lot of people and potentially stole some thunder but exchanging niceties with strangers at work events that allow guests is just the norm.

          1. Lydia*

            I like this approach. But I still think if the husband were there, the MIL and nanny need not be.

        2. Rachel*

          I think the idea of bringing a plus 1 or a partner is that your co-workers meet people close to you in a way to know you better.

          Bringing somebody in your life but not your inner circle doesn’t really expand your co-worker’s knowledge of you in quite the same way.

          It’s possible Pam and her MIL are besties and MIL will be at a lot of events and a key player in Pam’s life. It’s also possible people at the function will chat with the MIL and never see her again.

          I don’t think it’s wise to keep tabs on this kind of thing too closely because it’s crazy making, at the same time, it’s not hard to see why people don’t want to socialize at a work function with somebody who isn’t close to the co-worker.

        3. Anna*

          Why the heck not? Why are you assuming that she’s any less pleasant to socialize with than any of the other invitees?
          And also– if any partygoer chats with you and turns out to be awful, then you’re still not stuck. You excuse yourself tactfully and chat with others.

      2. Anonymous 75*

        exactly. it’s such a large number on comparison to the overall total of the entire group it really does change the dynamic. I think it’s also interesting that no one else brought more than one person, I wonder if that was just coincidence or more of an unwritten understanding of the nature of the event.

        1. Antilles*

          I wonder if that was just coincidence or more of an unwritten understanding of the nature of the event.
          Pretty sure it’s simply that everybody else read the phrase “plus ones are welcome” and understood that the word “plus one” to mean ONE.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          I think it’s possible to read the invitation two ways and at least half of people would have focused on “plus one” rather than “kids” especially if you don’t have any. Also, a lot of people with kids would have gone “nope” at the suggestion to bring the family, if they don’t want to corral their kids at a work event, but when you have a nanny it’s more doable.

      3. Sales SVP*

        I’m wondering if Pam had any idea how small the event would be. Are there 100 people in the office, she assumed they were all invited and might bring a partner/kids? Or is the office 10 people in total? And either way, the invitation is really ambiguous – if you say kids are ok, you really can’t say kids are ok if you only have one child, or only bring one of your children. If the host meant that, should have stuck with the +1 language. Adding “kids are fine!” to invite does feel like “bring your family”, which for some people doesn’t map precisely to nuclear family, depending on culture, living situation, etc.

        1. Ray B Purchase*

          LW doesn’t mention if this was Pam’s first event but I feel like it must be one of her firsts with the company. If I were new to a company, including kids in the invitation would indicate to me that other employees’ kids usually come to this event (and since she’s paying for it anyway, might as well bring the childcare too!). I would imagine Pam was pretty embarrassed to arrive and see that everybody else only brought their spouse and I’d be surprised if she brings the whole crew to another event.

      4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I think the misstep in the invitation was making it open to kids.
        “Bring a plus one” is clear. “Bring your kids.”
        Because nobody seemed to have wanted that.
        She looks like an outsider who doesn’t understand the social contract, but the contract included kids. She made a judgement call.
        I think the real question is not, “how do I tell her not to bring so many people?” but “we told everyone to bring their kids. Only one person brought all four. Should we not invite kids next time because people seem to want an adults only social hour?”

  7. The Original K.*

    I guess she felt like since she was paying for them, it was fine. And I can see how people might think “including kids,” plural, means they can bring all their kids. Seven extra people is a lot though, and if I were her MIL I’d be like “why would I want to go to that?” It doesn’t sound like Pam needed child care help if her nanny and husband were there.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      Grasping at reasons MIL being there. Maybe she lives far away and just happened to be visiting during the event. Or husband, kids, nanny, and MIL were doing something else together before the event and there wasn’t time to take the extra guests home? IDK. The simplest answer is the plurals used in the invite made it seem as long as you paid for the guests, it was fine to bring whomever. Some people need very specific directions (I just bought a new toaster and you can program based on the type of bread. Next to to the Gluten Free option in the user manual it says “Gluten Free setting does not remove gluten from the bread” I can’t imagine what promoted them to add that!) Pam obviously needs a “guests do not include your household staff and extended family” disclaimer.

      1. LunaLena*

        That or maybe it was a particularly delightful restaurant and Pam thought it was a great opportunity to try it out and bring the whole family? She might have thought it was a kill two birds with one stone kind of deal – do the work event but also have a fun night out for the family.

        Also I presume there was some kind of RSVP for everyone so that whoever was planning the event could reserve tables. If no one said anything to her when she responded with seven plus-ones, she probably assumed everyone was doing the same and/or it was okay.

      2. CheesePlease*

        Or MIL saw husband and kids were going to an event, and she forced herself to be included.

        It could also be that Pam interpreted it as a family event, and Nanny and MIL are her close family

      3. Ellis Bell*

        Let me guess the gf setting is to prevent rice flour bread from going up in flames; not to actually work magic on the gluten remnants?

    2. me again*

      Reason doesn’t matter, Pam thinks her family is wonderful and of course everyone else will too! Pam knows this is a small group, had it been 50 people maybe not so noticeable, but her family dominated! She was clueless.

      1. The Original K.*

        Oh, her family may well be wonderful but if my hypothetical DIL asked if I wanted to go to her work party, I’d say no. It’s nothing to do with Pam and everything to do with the fact that going to a work event, particularly the one described here, doesn’t sound like much fun for people who don’t work there (it also sounds like something that kids would find boring). Certainly if my hypothetical DIL were winning an award, I’d go, and I would go to my hypothetical husband’s work event because that’s what you sign up for, but as a MIL just sitting and watching people I don’t know receive awards I know nothing about? Nah, I’d stay home – I’d watch the kids so the couple could have a night out.

      2. So Tired*

        I think that’s a very uncharitable take with Pam. Sure she could be some stuck up office busy body who thinks she’s entitled to have a bunch of people at a work function. *OR* she read the invitation, interpreted it in a very valid way, possibly thought there would be significantly more people attending the event–since LW did not say how big the office was!!–and upon arriving realized her mistake but it was too late to do anything about.

        Sure, you can say she should have realized 7 guests was too many, but 7 guests at a 20 person event is very different than 7 guests at a 100+ person event. The invitation as it was sent out can be read as a plus one and kids are welcome at the event, in that reading, I can absolutely see why she’d bring her husband and all kids–choosing just one or two would probably have left the other ones feeling left out and that sucks!! And she thought ahead to bring additional childcare, since she knew she’d be busy. Honestly, so many people are focusing on ripping into Pam for (to them) committing such a faux pas, when in reality her reading of the invitation was completely valid, and she actually went about bringing her kids to a work function in a very smart and responsible way!

        I really do think if the size of the event was bigger, closer to 100 people than 20, there would be far fewer people having issues. And as I said before, we don’t know that Pam knew it would only be 20. Depending on office size she very reasonably could have expected the attendance numbers to be closer to 100+.

        1. LW*

          OP here — I can answer this one. We invited 12 employees, and I told the restaurant “15 to 25 people” would be in attendance. Pam was able to see the invite list on the calendar event, so if nothing else she would’ve known that there would probably be less than 30 people present.

          And as to the question about whether it was a problem… I’m honestly torn, which is why I wrote in. It was awkward, certainly — we ended up in two mini parties, the Pams and everyone else — but nothing went wrong and the kids weren’t disruptive. I hadn’t anticipated that scenario when I wrote the invite, but nobody did anything wrong.

    3. ferrina*

      Not sure about the assumption on childcare. Pam has 4 kids. Depending on the age and rambunctiousness level of the kids, a 1:1 kid:adult ratio may make sense to keep the kids’ impact to a minimum. Especially if a couple of the kids are prone to squabbling- each of them can have their own adult to distract them. And it means that Pam can socialize with coworkers more.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        But Pam has a nanny! And her MIL is around! If it’s a work event and you have to wrangle the kids…doesn’t seem fun for the kids, and not conducive to Pam socializing. And you HAVE A NANNY. The nanny’s literal job is to watch the kids! And she has the MIL there too! Why are you not shipping the children off to do something more child fun with the nanny and MIL?? I just don’t get that part of it (esp since the event was so small!). I promise your children DGAF about watching you present this award. They’d rather be somewhere else that’s more fun for them.

        1. kiki*

          I feel like the most likely explanation is that Pam misunderstood the event. I would guess that Pam thought there would be other families with kids there which could make it more fun for the kids. But there weren’t.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            I mean…she was presenting an award. Surely she knew the basics of this event.

            Anyway, OP, maybe in the future, go ahead and let people invite a +1 to events like this that are smaller/mostly work social/have a larger work component, and save the “kids are welcome” line for something more like a company outing or picnic or large social event that involves more non-work social components.

    4. umami*

      Putting ‘kids’ at all seems to be the problem. If you say ‘plus one’ and you DON’T mean it’s a family event, why even mention ‘kids’? If I want to take my adult daughter to an event, I don’t think I need an explicit invitation to do so, so the ‘including kids’ sounds like non-adult children, collectively, are invited.

      Having said that, I would not do what Pam did, but I don’t fault her at all!

      1. kiki*

        I think LW wanted to be flexible in the invitation, so if somebody wanted to bring their baby as a plus one, they’d know it’s okay. Or maybe if the only way someone could attend is if they didn’t have to get a babysitter, they could bring their two kids and be fine. But LW wasn’t expecting Pam, who has a relatively large family by 2o23 standards, to bring everyone plus two people. In Pam’s shoes, I probably would have asked LW if 7 plus ones was alright, but I can also see how Pam wouldn’t think it would matter since she’d be paying their way anyway. She probably didn’t realize most people would not be bringing all their kids and partners.

        1. Sunflower*

          It does seem like whatever the case, the organizer didn’t consider that people might have more than 1-2 kids when wording the invitation, which is a little insular.

  8. GrumpyZena*

    My work phrases this as either “plus ONE”, with the emphasis on the ONE, or “partners and children welcome” for the more family-oriented events. Because, as you say, there is no problem with someone bringing all their kids to a family event, even if that is a bunch of kids! It’s about relationship to the employee. (I should note that more than 3-4 kids would be HIGHLY unusual in the UK, where 2-3 is much more the norm. )

    1. Smithy*

      Yes, I do think that this point of clarity is also helpful for the organizer in thinking about what they want to be offering for the staff specifically. Inevitably, you will have some Pam’s who think that bringing a lot of people to a work event is ideal for their home life. And you’ll have some staff who will never want to bring anyone.

      So being thoughtful of events where you offer staff no guests, one guest, or “all family” guests can be helpful in making sure that you’re offering a variety of staff events and don’t default to just one type.

    2. Yep*

      Yes, I was honestly confused by the wording as well. Did they intend people to be able to bring more than one person? If so, then why are they calling guests a “plus one”? If they did not intend them to bring multiple people, why are they using so many plurals? If they didn’t want kids there, they shouldn’t offer that. If they want a cap on guests, they should say that. This just feels to me like the LW had an idea in their head of what they expected, and then others weren’t telepathic. Sure it was a little weird to bring so many people, but I can understand the miscommunication. I’ve certainly struggled to communicate everything to others outside of my head, so I sympathize, and would just take this as helpful feedback for what needs to be communicated for future events.

      “You’re welcome to bring up to two guests,” “You can bring a plus-one,” etc.

      1. Lexie*

        I can easily see people interpreting it as a plus 1 means you can bring a date who doesn’t have to be your spouse and that “including kids” means you can also bring all of your kids.

        I worked at a place that would put extremely specific restrictions on who you could bring and it would have been fairer to just say “you may bring x number of guests”.

  9. Peanut Hamper*

    Oh my god, Pam. I certainly hope your nanny was on the clock.

    This could be an issue if you are making reservations. Assuming everyone is bring a +1, but someone bringing +7 could throw off numbers.

    I would word it as “+1s are welcome, including kids. Please let us know how many guests you will be bring.” for reservation purposes if nothing else.

    1. jj*

      not to be rude – but what indication is there that the nanny wasn’t on the clock? Like you seem to be implying you suspect the nanny might not have been but there’s nothing here to indicate that Pam is an abusive employer, who mistreats her domestic workers? She’s just someone who misjudged a social norm for a dinner? Idk maybe I am misreading your tone, but it seems smug/suspicious beyond what seems warranted by the details in the post…

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      This is the second time you’ve made unkind and unwarranted assumptions about Pam’s character.

    3. The Charioteer*

      A nanny would usually be on the clock when accompanying a family to an event like this, yes.

  10. KHB*

    Did people have to RSVP for themselves and their guests, or did nobody realize that Pam would be bringing so many guests (and that she would be the only one bringing so many guests) until everybody showed up?

    If somebody was coordinating the RSVPs to make the reservation at the restaurant, it would seem like that would have been a good time to circle back to Pam to let her know that everyone else was coming either alone or with just one guest. She probably felt awkward, too, when she arrived with her whole family, only to see that nobody else had done the same.

    And yeah, in the future, I’d phrase the invitations differently, like Alison suggested.

    1. LW*

      OP here! Some context I left out of the letter for brevity: Pam was one of two people I asked to give a once-over on my plan for the event, because they were in the room when I drafted it. When talking to them, I said “Since there are 12 houseplant therapists on the team, and I’m inviting them all with plus-ones, do you think it’d be appropriate to ask the restaurant to expect 20 people plus or minus five?” And Pam verbally agreed. I get that it may have slipped her mind, but we did discuss out loud that ~12 employees + X guests ≈ 20 people.

      I also asked if I should use RSVPs to get a firm headcount beforehand, but Pam and our coworker agreed that since the venue was willing to take a reservation as vague as “20 ±5”, then it was fine just to reserve for “20 ±5”. I’m hesitant to go to a formal RSVP system in the future, since it’s been my experience that if we ask people to commit a week in advance they tend to go “I’m not sure if I can make it, so you better just count me absent” whereas loose open invitations get better attendance.

  11. Jessica*

    Did anyone else bring children, and do you really want children of all ages at a restaurant dinner/work function/award presentation? I feel like workplace events that encourage people to bring their kids are usually more like a picnic or something geared to enjoyment by all ages. Inviting kids opens the door to both large quantities of people and bad behavior, so maybe that’s what you might want to do differently. If kids hadn’t been invited, Pam presumably would have shown up with at most her husband and MIL, a mildly odd +2.

    1. thatoneoverthere*

      I agree. I think its odd the kids came. I have 3 kids, and love bringing them places. However I would never bring them to a work event, unless it was labeled “Family Event”.

      1. The Original K.*

        I can’t figure out the kids thing either. She clearly has child care options with her husband, nanny and MIL, so it doesn’t seem like the kids had to be there. I guess she misinterpreted it as a family event.

        1. ADidgeridooForYou*

          I agree that an awards dinner doesn’t necessarily seem like a kid-friendly place (they’d likely be bored out of their minds), but in fairness, the invitation specifically said kids were welcome, so I can see how Pam might have thought that there would be other kids there, as well.

        2. Allison Wonderland*

          The invite said “including kids,” so why would she think it’s weird to bring kids? That’s so confusing. It seems like there is some secret meaning that everyone’s supposed to be able to interpret.

          1. Sunflower*

            Yeah, “we will reluctantly allow you to bring small amounts of kids but it won’t be a family-vibes event” is not reasonable to expect people to interpret. It said “and kids”. She brought kids. And watchers for kids.

      2. CheesePlease*

        But kids were included in the invite. Some parents like bringing their kids to “adult” social outings (dinner with friends, work events where kids are included in the invitation etc.)

        I think the invite could have simply read “plus-ones are welcome, but please note you’ll be paying for any of your own guests” and then if an employee wanted to bring children they could have explicitly asked.

        1. ferrina*

          Exactly. If it says “kids are welcome”, I assume it’s a kid-friendly environment. If there’s no note of kids, I’d assume it’s geared for adults (though as a teenager I attended a couple of my mom’s functions. My mom checked in advance that I could come)

            1. constant_craving*

              I think if you explicitly say “kids are welcome” it’s plenty logical to conclude that the kids are indeed welcome, which is much more in line with kid-friendly.

              1. Lydia*

                I don’t agree. I think saying that kids are welcome is an attempt to acknowledge people may not have childcare options in the evening. That doesn’t make it kid-friendly; at minimum it means it won’t be strictly adult-oriented.

        2. Sloanicota*

          Perhaps “a plus-one is welcome” (singular) if that is the expectation (yes, it’s in the name, but maybe the S threw Pam off). You could add “please share the names of anyone you’ll be bringing” so you can get ahead of four kids plus nanny if that’s actually a big problem.

    2. Antilles*

      Yeah, to me, this reads like an awards luncheon which also includes some social chatting – the kind of thing where most kids (especially those young enough to still have a nanny) would quickly be bored out of their skulls.

  12. bighairnoheart*

    I’d be tempted to phrase future invitations as something like, “Plus ones are welcome. Additional guests may be accommodated, but please notify [OP or whoever else is in charge of invites] first.” Not foolproof, but gets at the basic idea that one is always fine without clearance, and more is most likely okay but you need to give the host a heads up. It should also prevent you from being caught off guard if it happens again.

    1. Captain Vegetable ( Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

      This seems like the best response. There clearly was a communication breakdown, but as much fun as it is to guess where, we may never know.

  13. DD*

    Unless it was disruptive to have all of Pam’s guests there I would assume it was a unique situation and let it go for now, especially since she covered their costs.

    Maybe they had other plans immediately after and wouldn’t have time to go home and get kids and nanny (plane to catch or family event). If Pam misunderstood the plus ones verbiage or it was common at a previous job to include the entire family she now sees the company norm and will likely adjust accordingly.

  14. Knope Knope Knope*

    Ok, I am seeing this through a different lens. When I saw “including kids” I read it as a kid-friendly event, not “plus ones are invited and that one person can be a kid if you so choose.”

    I have two young kids and it’s pretty normal childcare join in any family activity. I have friends/family with three kids, and they commonly bring their nanny everywhere because otherwise it is unmanageable and because it’s part of the job. I am guessing with four, the MIL and the nanny were part of that bucket.

    I probably wouldn’t have thought this was weird and would have appreciated the employer as a mom! Just this morning I was thinking about how being a professional and a mom feels like leading a double life, and I would love for my family to see me more in that context!

    1. Kelly*

      Yeah, I interpreted it very similarly. I disagree with with Alison on this one — I think the wording is the cause of this issue.

          1. Lydia*

            I think the idea that adding an S to “ones” means more than one is odd. I read it as a “coworkers” is plural, therefore there will be a group of plus ones.

    2. Atlantic Toast Conference*

      I agree! I think Alison’s point that there are a lot of plurals in that sentence probably contributed to the confusion. (That said, Pam doesn’t sound super attuned to social/office norms, what with the MIL and the nanny.)

      If it were me, I would rewrite the invitation to take out the plurals: “You are welcome to bring a plus-one, including a child, but please note you’ll be paying for your own guest.”

      1. So Tired*

        How does Pam bringing her MIL and nanny–likely childcare for the children–in any way indicate she doesn’t understand social/office norms?? She had a valid reading of the invite, and made sure that while bringing her children she also brought people who could keep a better on them than she’d likely be able to at a work function.

        The only thing we know about Pam from this letter is that she was presenting an award, is married with four kids, and apparently has both a nanny and an MIL willing and able to act as childcare. None of that indicates anything about her attunement to social/office norms. And no, her particular interpretation of the invitation does not indicate that she’s not in tune with norms, as it was a very understandable reading of the invite.

    3. Parenthesis Guy*

      I completely agree with this take. My company is very family friendly and likes it when families are brought to company functions so that we can all meet each other and get to really know who we’re working with. It means that my coworker isn’t just Bob from Jabber, but he’s Bob married to Sarah with those three adorable kids.

      And yes, if you can afford a nanny to do childcare, why wouldn’t you bring that person with you for something like this?

    4. Atlantic Toast Conference*

      I agree! I think Alison’s point is well-taken that all of the plurals in the invitation contributed to the confusion. (That said, Pam doesn’t seem super attuned to social/office norms, what with the MIL and nanny.)

      If it were me, I’d rewrite the invitation to remove plurals: “You are welcome to bring a plus-one, including a child, but please note you’ll be paying for your own guest.”

    5. CheerfulGinger*

      I read it the same way as you did! Her plus one was her husband, and she brought her kids and their nanny (which makes perfect sense to me, help keep the kids entertained and contained during a work-adjacent event). The only unusual one was the MIL.

      1. So Tired*

        Unless you accept that MIL was likely also along for child care. Four kids can be a lot, especially in a social situation. Or maybe MIL was in from out of town and wanted to spend as much time as possible with the family. Or they had an event before/after, and weren’t able to accommodate getting MIL somewhere else.

        Lots of very reasonable explanations for MIL also being in attendance.

    6. Cake or Death*

      “I have friends/family with three kids, and they commonly bring their nanny everywhere because otherwise it is unmanageable and because it’s part of the job.”

      My goodness. I find it amusing that it’s considered “unmanageable” to bring 3 children anywhere without help from a nanny. So many people “manage” do it everyday. Plus, I can’t help but speculate on how awful those kids must behave if they need 3 wranglers to leave the house.

      “I am guessing with four, the MIL and the nanny were part of that bucket.” So, these 4 kids need 2 adults to manage them? Geez. If my kids were so ill-behaved that I need to bring along a nanny and my MIL to watch them, I probably wouldn’t be bringing them to a work event. Especially a work event where I’m presenting an award to someone else and the center of attention is supposed to be on others, not me.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        Different things work or are needed for different families, and if they have the resources to make it easier, good for them. I don’t think this incredibly judgmental comment is necessary.

      2. Knope Knope Knope*

        That’s pretty uncharitable! My friend is having a very rough recovery after complications from her second c-section. She’s been back at work for 5 months, but physically she ends up relying on her nanny a lot at home. Her toddler isn’t horrible but he is active and with only two it is a lot! My nieces and nephew are not awful, but they are young at an event with a lot of adults would likely need enough attention that mom and dad wouldn’t get to enjoy much if any adult time if tending to them all.

      3. Dawbs*

        That seems a bit unkind and unfair.
        I only have 1 kid but if I am working, I am *working* and not free to parent at that moment so someone to keep my kid well behaved and safe is needed. And if it is a networking-type event, the spouse might not be as able to stop and parent as he might be able to otherwise.
        People grouse (reasonably!) about parents bringing kids and expecting staff to babysit–so this person didn’t.

        These kids were invited guests (specifically included kids on the invite), so instead of putting out her coworkers, she brought childcare–and now she’s dinged for bringing the nanny. No winning–unless she didn’t bring the kids (the kids who were specifically included on the invite.)

        (The MIL I can’t explain, but I can see my MIL being in town and being so sure she needed to come to the event to show support that I’d give up and my husband would throw up his hands and say ‘fine, it’ll be fine’. I’d probably not let that happen, but early in my careeer….I might have)

        1. ADidgeridooForYou*

          I’m not a parent myself, and don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of bad parents out there, but sometimes it does seem like they just can’t win. If they bring their kids in public and they’re rowdy or other people need to look after them, they’re told to get additional help, but when they bring a nanny to help wrangle the kids, they get told it’s pathetic that they can’t do it alone. Sometimes it feels like society is moving towards a “children should neither be seen nor heard” mindset, and if they do make an appearance, they shouldn’t be anything other than perfectly well-adjusted angels.

      4. Isben Takes Tea*

        This is a really judgmental take!

        I know plenty of children who need more attention/management not because they are misbehaving monsters or have bad parents, but because they just have to work a lot harder on energy/attention/emotional regulation than other kids do, and having an extra adult can help keep everyone smoothly on track. I was in a family where life in public went a lot better with two adults for three kids, and none of us were “awful;” in fact as we got older we were commonly praised for our maturity among our peers.

        If having 2 adults to watch 4 kids meant there wasn’t any behavioral problems, that just means the kids are getting the support they need. Whether or not having them there was appropriate for a work event can be discussed, but it doesn’t automatically mean there’s bad parenting going on.

      5. Samwise*

        We were 5. Even when we were fairly young, we were expected to Behave with a capital B. My mom was stay-at-home and we did not have $ for a nanny, so it was her and dad and more often just her. Dad had a look that could freeze the blood of a child at 20 paces, and my mom had the I’m so disappointed in you look (more effective than dad’s look, for sure). It was a Big Deal when my brother had to go sit in the car with my mom while we at sunday mass –woo, shocked the rest of us into complete silence and no wriggling.

        Haha, and now you can say ok boomer. I only had one kid, but he behaved quite well. When he was about to embark on naughtiness out in public, he’d look over at me, I’d shake my head, he’d sigh and choose better.

      6. Area Woman*

        As others have stated, this is an abelist comment. Please do not project your capabilities on others. I have spondylolisthesis (feel free too google it) and I really struggle with just 2 kids. I try to bring my husband everywhere. I wish we had a nanny to help me, and we’re looking into housekeepers because I really can’t manage kids and house at all, even with my husband taking on more than 50% of housework.

      7. umami*

        That’s a little unkind – children can have special needs but still deserve to be included in a social event with their parents. Not every situation where parents need/want assistance with their children is because of being ‘ill-behaved’.

      8. Llama Llama*

        Two of my children are disabled and while good kids require a good amount of attention to be fed. So if I want to pay attention to others, yes I need help.

        I have never brought my mom or nanny to a work event but there have been many times in my life where I wish I did or to other events in general.

      9. ADidgeridooForYou*

        Echoing that this is kinda cruel and judge-y. You really don’t know anything about these people, let alone enough to call their kids awful! Every person and family has different needs. As long as they have a system that works, who are we to judge? Honestly, as someone who doesn’t LOVE kids (they’re fine and I like my friends’ and families’ kids, I just find them to be stressful balls of energy sometimes), I’d rather see a family that has taken the time and thought to bring multiple caregivers than one or two parents who are ignoring their children as they run amok.

      10. Head sheep counter*

        I concur. If you told me you needed one adult per child I’d make assumptions about the child (and the adults) in terms of disruptive behavior. It might not be fair or accurate but… assumptions would be made.

        1. So Tired*

          You’re right that it would be unfair, and more than likely inaccurate. Some kids need additional support and it doesn’t mean anything bad about them or their adults. It just means they need extra support. I encourage you to work on being more open-minded about situations like these. You don’t know the kids mentioned in this letter, and you won’t know the stories of every kid you see in the world with a dedicated adult to look after them. Being less judgemental of others will go a long way.

        2. Isben Takes Tea*

          I agree with So Tired. If the assumption is that without the adult, the child would be disruptive, then it might be a fair inference, but it’s not fair to assume that children prone to disruption are “awful” children (or have parents who have “failed” to parent). The ability to self-regulate energy and emotions develops at different rates for different people, and acknowledging and supporting that with extra adult supervision where needed is actually a great thing to do.

          Of course every situation is different, but what good does making judgmental assumptions about people do for you?

        3. dawbs*

          I’m sure you don’t mean for this to be an ableist take, but, as kindly as i can say this, it is.

          people make assumptions. but a lot of assumptions are based in racism and sexism and a lot of shitty stuff. i’m not going to make s1 to 1 comparison, because it’s not a competition and they’re different issues.
          but “that kid must suck or those parents must suck because otherwise why can’t they manage” is ableist as fuck. you know nothing about the kids’ needs and parent’s needs.

          when i find myself thinking something liw key racist or sexist,based on harmful stereotypes and a problematic culture,i hsve ti challenge my assumptions.
          please challenge yours. you can do better.

          (said as a parent to a kid with low-support needs who gets to argue about preboarding and knows that I’m just drowning in judgement assume days)

        4. Head sheep counter*

          For a work event – disruptive… is disruptive. It could be disruptive because everyone loves and is distracted by the kids. It could be disruptive because the kids are feral. Neither is appropriate for a work award get-together.

          While the world at large should aspire to more kindness… we as people should aspire to being more… aware? Work is not a community event. Bringing your whole extended tribe and their support folk is…not something the LW could have anticipated with their planning.

          And if you don’t think people are assessing a situation and coming up with a judgement about said situation… then I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you. A function of being human is making assessments about a set of information. All I was doing was acknowledging this function by saying I’d have inherent assumptions… I was not assigning value to said assumptions.

          1. dawbs*

            The thing is….we really need to assign values to our assumptions.

            If I see someone and I make an assessment based on a racial sterotype, that’s an assumption to challenge–because it’s racism. If I see someone and make an assessment based on ingrained systemic gender roles, that’s an assumption to challenge because it’s sexism.

            If you see my kid and make an assumption based on failing to understand neurodiversity, that’s an assumption to challenge because it’s ableism.
            If you see me and make an assumption based on failing to understand invisible disabilities, that’s an assumption to challenge because it’s ableism.

            People don’t mean to be able-ist. But most right-minded people don’t mean to be sexist…and yet we still are. We have to recognize the screw ups in our own thinking so we don’t commit daily, constant micro-agressions. And that is work–hard work that people have to do.
            Challenging the ableist narrative that’s a part of our society requires the same.

            I get that lots of folks wouldn’t have read this invite as ‘bring the crew!’–but the responses here show that a LOT of us would have read it as “bring the family!” the same way that some company events are ‘bring the family’.
            We can debate until blue in the face if Pam screwed up badly.

            But if we assume that children and their parents are invited, that means that ALL children are invited. That means disabled children are invited. That means that autistic children are invited. That means disabled parents are invited. Disabled parents and disabled children sometimes require more/different carers. They do not and should not have to justify/’out’ their child’s disability for reasonable accommodations. A sitter, paid for by the parent, isn’t even an accommodation–they’re just an additional PAID guest.

            So, yeah, that’s some ableism; we should aspire to do better .

      11. KateM*

        Of course I can manage my four kids on my own, but what I can’t do is manage kids and pay meaningful attention to my work event at the same time. Especially if I was there just for networking but also presenting an event.
        I took a babysitter (my mother) to a conference where I was with only one baby! The horror.

        1. Lydia*

          This isn’t the same situation, unless your mother is coming to the conference and bringing the baby with her. Because that would be A) odd and B) not at all similar to what Pam did. I think Pam misunderstood the intent, and that’s not a big deal, but I am surprised it didn’t occur to her that having to bring two extra people along to make sure she could focus on her work obligation might mean it would have been better to leave the kids at home.

      12. Sunflower*

        Tantrums aren’t the only thing kids need supervision for. Even quiet kids can wander somewhere unsafe or break something.

        1. SnappinTerrapin*

          Our twins were well mannered, but it wasn’t unusual for them to be distracted in opposite directions when we went places. It was pretty helpful to have two teens to help us keep eyes on them.

          I never had a work function with an invitation worded similarly to this, so I will withhold judgment on the decision to bring the whole family to this particular event. That’s just not a situation that I have ever been in or thought about.

    7. Rachel*

      I would participate in a family event at my workplace, but I wouldn’t expect my kids to really pick up on what I do for a living at an event that is also appropriate for them.

      From a broader perspective, there are a lot of jobs that most of us understand basically (doctor, firefighter). But most jobs are things that only people in the field really get beyond a basic explanation, this is even more so for kids.

      My kids can parrot what my husband and I do for a living and that’s all anybody else can do for us, too, and I’m actually totally fine with that.

    8. JR*

      I agree – I would assume any event where you’re explicitly told you can bring kids is a family event. Pam just had a big family. I agree it’s a little random to bring the mother in law, but with four kids, I don’t think bringing the nanny is odd at all.

      OP, was there a reason to specify that kids were welcome?

      1. Anna*

        Yeah and it is easy to think of possible reasons why the mother in law was included too. At least in my case, if my mom or mother in law was visiting from out of town the same week I happened to have this work dinner that I was planning to attend with my spouse and kids, I would invite her too. She’d likely rather attend as part of the family (that she just flew cross-country to visit) than stay home alone. And I’m paying for her meal, so I’m not causing an imposition on anyone else.

    9. lucanus cervus*

      Yeah, the wording does make it sound like ‘feel free to bring your family’ to me – kidS welcome, you pay for your guestS. I would honestly have thought that ‘plus ones’ was a slightly awkward way of saying ‘guests’, since the rest does make it sound like you can bring multiple people. (I personally wouldn’t bring my kids to a work do unless it was some kind of outdoor fun day, and I’m very much not the type who thinks everyone will love the company of my children, so I don’t think I’m reading it through parental rose-tinted spectacles either!)

      I do understand bringing the nanny too, since there are four kids and you wouldn’t want them to be disruptive. For some reason it’s the MiL that tips this over into A Bit Too Much in my head. But that might be because I’d expect the dad and the nanny between them to be able to wrangle two kids each, and I’m – possibly unfairly – suspecting the dad of sitting back and letting the women run around after his kids.

      1. So Tired*

        It’s also possible that Pam’s husband knows her coworkers and will be socializing with them to an extent as well! For me personally, my dad will accompany my mom on some of her partner trips and spend a day or two golfing with some of her coworkers while my mom and other coworkers do other activities. So it’s perfectly reasonable to me that Pam’s husband could get along very well with her coworkers and not be fully in parenting mode, thus having MIL to help the nanny would make a lot of sense.

      2. Lexie*

        I worked at a place where they would put very specific restrictions on who your guest(s) could be. So I would interpret “plus one” as meaning you can bring a date as opposed to be limited to bringing your spouse. Yes, there were times the wording indicated that you couldn’t bring someone if you weren’t married.

    10. Waiting on the bus*

      I read it this way as well! I would have thought it was fine to bring everyone and then be very surprised and embarrassed when I saw that the wording was misleading.

      OP, just leave out all the plurals next time.

    11. me again*

      I did read it as your plus one could be a kid, not bring all your kids! I would have used this as I was a single mother of one. No need to say plus one if you can just bring however many people.

      Not everyone has a lot of kids and not everyone wants to socialize with their coworkers kids at what OP clearly labeled a work event. Boring for the kids too, this wasn’t a picnic or day at the water park.

    12. Sales SVP*

      This. Why in the world are kids invited to a work event, but then it’s a problem that someone has 4 kids? The premise strikes me as a little weird, given that kids are explicitly mentioned. I get that the MIL and nanny are a bit much, but for four youngish children, with the employee paying, this doesn’t seem like a big deal.

    13. ferrina*

      Adding to the chorus! I agree that this is how I would have read it- I’d assume that the family was welcome! It sounds like there were unwritten expectations that LW assumed Pam would pick up on, but Pam went by what was written.

      It sounds like it was an awkward work event, but no actual harm done. I’d chalk it up to “need to be more clear next time” or “sometimes work events are awkward”

    14. Olive*

      Same, I’d have been mildly annoyed at the event organizer for making it sound like a family-friendly event when it really wasn’t.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        My issue with that take is this: Pam is presenting an award at this shindig. Surely she is aware of what kind of event it is? As in, she should know it’s a fairly small event at a restaurant, where work awards will be given out. In what world does someone then say “oh, my kids would love this event, and of course we’ll have to bring the nanny, and MIL is here so she can come too!”? It just doesn’t read like any kind of event where it would be at all entertaining for kids. Like, bring your kid if you have to because you can’t get a sitter, BUT this is not a child friendly event! It’s not a company picnic! It’s a small awards dinner! Just so bizarre to bring 7 others to that!

        1. Anna*

          No, I do not think it is bizarre. She is presenting an award, but that doesn’t mean she is on the organizing team and knows how many invites and how many RSVPs there are. I can easily imagine being in her shoes– perhaps the office admin is planning the event, but the admin isn’t great at public speaking, or just doesn’t feel like it’s his place to announce the award, so he asks Pam to do it. She agrees, but she isn’t in charge of anything else like choosing the restaurant, deciding whether to reserve a party room or just a table, etc. The admin sends out the invite and it sounds family friendly.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Pam knows how many people are in her department. It’s bizarre to bring your entire family to a work social hour.

            1. Anna*

              But you added a bunch of details in your comment that are not in the original letter.
              You said “it’s not a child friendly event” even though the original invite specifically said kids WERE invited. You said it’s a “small awards dinner”, but that was not stated in the original letter– neither “small” or “dinner” are mentioned. Sure, she knows how many coworkers there are but she doesn’t know how many are planning to attend, how many are bringing guests, etc. Like, yes, there are some types of events where this would be a faux pas, but we don’t have any clear evidence that this is one of them.

              1. Lydia*

                I think just as many people are assuming it was kid-friendly rather than kid-neutral. Kid-friendly, to me, means there will be things kids can do. This sounds more like a place that wasn’t specifically adult-centered, but didn’t have things that were specifically geared towards children. Kids are welcome is not the same as saying there will be things for kids to do.

  15. Drew Conclusions*

    If they paid for their “plus 1s”, I don’t see a problem. We spend so much time with our work peers, perhaps they wanted to introduce their family to their work family. The manager left the door open. They should be proud to have a worker that wants to share her ‘moment’ presenting an award with her family, too.

  16. Casual Librarian*

    I know a lot of people will likely have language suggestions, but I feel like “Partners and children are welcome” covers people with multiple partners, dating relationships, and children while leaving out some more external people (read: MIL and nanny).

    That being said, I’ve misread some emails like that before and ended up embarrassed when I brought my children to an event where everyone else only brought their partners. I don’t think this warrants a direct conversation unless there’s a pattern or it affects the actual event (reservation space, cost, etc.)

    1. ecnaseener*

      The case it doesn’t cover is single people who would like to bring a close friend – it sounds like that would’ve been okay for this event.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      See, I think what OP was implying in the letter was she didn’t mean “Partners and children are welcome”. I think she meant “+1 even if that person is a kid”.

  17. Kelly*

    fwiw, when I read the invitation I also interpreted all the plurals to mean you could bring as many as you like so long as you pay.

    1. The 7th +1*

      I initially interpreted your wording as as “A +1 is welcome but you’ll have to pay for anyone in addition to that” (Although it’s still weird she’d invite the MIL and the nanny.)

      IMO drop the bit about kids being welcome (if someone isn’t sure just let them ask) and drop the plural on “guests”.

  18. Dhaskoi*

    I do think your phrasing was a bit ambiguous, but 7 people is definitely a bit beyond usual social norms.

    Possibly the ‘paying for your own guests’ line made Pam feel that any number was fine so long as she paid for them. (There have been studies which suggest that bad/rude behaviour becomes more permissible in contexts where people feel they can buy acceptance for it).

    1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

      Right, this stuck out at me too—like I think part of the problem isn’t just misreading the norms of “how many people is +1 really” but also, a certain expectation of “how far financially might someone be willing to go”. LW doesn’t say what kind of restaurant this was but I’d guess it was fancier than McDonalds. Why would you anticipate anyone to be willing/able to pay out of pocket for 7 additional people? I’d figure finances alone would tend to limit that sort of thing naturally.

      Of course, Pam is probably used to budgeting for this big family—but I wouldn’t *expect* it and I’d be surprised too.

  19. Monkey Princess*

    OP meant “+1” literally, as in bring ONE other person. And I agree that I’ve never really heard “#1” in a way that means “catch-all that includes as many people as you want.” In the way that “a couple” means two, but if I heard “Feel free to bring a couple of guests,” I would assume that means anywhere from, say, 1-4 people, and not literally just 2.”

    But when you made “kids” plural, honestly, that does make it sound like a family event, where people are encouraged to bring all their kids (if they have them). And that kinda makes “#1” sound more like a cute way of saying “guests,” instead of just literally “you can bring one other person.”

    So it’s weird that Pam brought her entire extended clan, but I also think that the wording of the invitation made it sound like a full-family event.

    A way around it might be “Please feel free to bring a guest of any age: children are welcome.” It still keeps the guest singular.

    1. metadata minion*

      Bringing just one child also seems slightly unusual, unless the child is older and interested in the job or something. Sure, plenty of people are single parents to a single kid, but if I hear “plus one, children welcome” my brain goes to “partner and child(ren)” not “pick which toddler you want to bring to the awards ceremony”.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      Yeah, I’ve never heard “plus 1” to mean anything other than “you can bring one person”. Otherwise I’d expect it to say “guests”.

      I like your alternative phrasing.

    3. atalanta0jess*

      I like this. I did read the “plus one” with kids welcome as implying a partner and kids. Which is still not what Pam did, but is also not what the letter writer intended.

      Side note, man, some harsh comments today. Holy moly.

    4. Turquoisecow*

      I assumed “kids” meant that there would be kids other than my own, not that I could bring multiple (hypothetical, I only have one) kids. But my kid is 3 and I probably wouldn’t bring her along to a work dinner anyway. Maybe my husband, if I was receiving an award, or we had a babysitter and he wanted a dinner out, but he doesn’t know most of my coworkers and doesn’t work in my industry and wouldn’t really be interested. My kid does okay at restaurants, we bring her out somewhat frequently, but a long, drawn out awards dinner, she’d either start getting tired or want to get out of her chair and run around.

      I don’t know how old Pam’s kids are but I can’t imagine that even teenagers would have a lot of interest, unless they were friends with her coworkers kids or maybe interested in her job. I see how people could get confused between welcomed and okay. Like to me, “welcomed” might mean that there are going to be kid specific meals and maybe some activities for them, “okay” means, yeah you can bring your kids and we won’t be mad but it’s really not designed for them. And this isn’t a holiday party, it’s an awards dinner, I wouldn’t expect kid activities. I can see how Pam might have been a little confused but she should have clarified, and if there was some situation where she absolutely had to bring multiple extra people, cleared it with OP or the organizers or whatever.

  20. I'm just here for the cats!!*

    I kind of wonder if this wasn’t some big, weird situation. Like MIL was in town, Husband knew they were going out, so invited the whole family? Or maybe MIL is a really push person and the coworker just went with it because it was easier than fighting?

    1. Rachel*

      My guess is that they were all doing something before or after this and it made sense to roll it into one trip.

  21. Rachel*

    I would specify two things:

    (1) the cap number of guests. My instincts lean towards 3, but 2 is also fine.

    (2) age limits of the guests. When I read this, I assumed you meant adult children who were the guest of their parents, not a kid-friendly in the sense that babies and toddlers would seamlessly fit in.

    1. atalanta0jess*

      You read “kids welcome” as meaning people could bring their adult children? That seems incredibly uncommon of a reading to me. An adult offspring is not a “kid”

      1. Rachel*

        Maybe not adult children only, but something like 12+.

        Generally speaking, events that babies and toddlers can attend with no issue is a very specific type of venue. And if this wasn’t one of those, I wouldn’t think that is who was included.

    2. CheesePlease*

      If someone invited me to a work event and it said “plus ones welcome, including kids” I would bring my toddler if it made sense for my family

      If it was an adult-only event, then it should have left out the kids bit and said “adult plus-ones are invited” which is open enough to include non-romantic partners, poly situations, adult children etc etc etc

      1. Rachel*

        The confusion in the comments is a good reason to write the invitation more clearly.

        Personally, I think the invitation was vague but also bringing 7 people to a work event is weird.

        1. CheesePlease*

          Yes, the wording is confusing and Pam has shown that she is someone (along with many others) who will take a generous approach to the wording. And for people like that, it’s worth having clear invites if the goal is not a large family style function.

      2. Jake*

        I’d add that “adult plus-ones” implies to me that you can bring multiple ones. If you only want a single guest, it needs to say, “an adult plus one is invited”

  22. linger*

    If this was a complete surprise on the night, that at least could be avoided in future by requiring guests to be registered in advance “for planning purposes”.

  23. chickia*

    I think that since the invitation specifically mentioned kids . . . well, that means OK to bring your kids right? or maybe even that kids are welcomed? Otherwise why mention bringing kids at all? So, she has 4 kids — was she supposed to pick just 1 kid to bring? Usually when an invite says to bring kids, it means all your kids. So . . . I guess I’m an outlier here but I think bringing her 4 kids is perfectly reasonable. The only thing I think it weird is bringing the husband, nanny, and MIL as well. 1 maybe for kid wrangling duty? (especially since she was giving an award so not able to supervise kids the whole time) But 3 seems excessive. Maybe 2 of her award giving duties were anything more than a super quick presentation thing (5 min or less).

    1. chickia*

      also — forgot to mention — in our workforce (especially for working moms), 4 kids is a bit unusual right? So maybe that is playing into this feeling like this was A LOT. But just a reminder that if your invite says “kids”, that could mean 1 or could mean 5. If no one else has kids or no one else brought kids and kids aren’t typically expected at these events, then don’t send out invites that say kids are welcome.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I wouldn’t take it to mean “bring your kids,” but rather that your plus one could be under the age of 18 if you so chose. Seeing that invite, I think I would be most likely to assume one of the staff was a single parent to a teenager/pre-teen and had asked could they bring their son/daughter instead of a partner/adult guest and the invite was making it clear that was fine in case somebody else wanted to do the same.

      I think +1 means one guest so I’d assume child only if you don’t want to invite any adult.

  24. Alex*

    I think it is hard to limit guests if someone else is paying for it. Yeah, it’s a little socially awkward to take over the event with your own gang, but if this is in a presumably public place, and you are not paying their way, I don’t think you can tell others what to do just because you wanted to have a certain vibe at the event (work centered).

    As long as they all behaved pleasantly enough I’m not sure you can really say anything to Pam about it.

  25. Irish Teacher*

    I think it’s the mother-in-law and the nanny that make me feel this was weird. I could see somebody reading “+1s, including kids” as “you can bring your partner or another guest and if you choose to bring your partner, it’s fine to bring the kids along, so you don’t have to pay for childcare” (though a more obvious reading would be “there is no age limit; your plus 1 can be a kid”), but I can’t see a reading of +1 that would include a mother-in-law and a nanny.

    That said, people do do it. My college graduation specified 2 guests per student, but one of my friends brought both her parents, her two youngest siblings (about 9 and 12) and her boyfriend.

    I’d be inclined to say nothing this time but next time, rephrase it a little to stress it is one guest only.

  26. Madame X*

    I think your wording was reasonable and most people, including most of the guest at the event interpreted plus one as one additional guest. It is unlikely that in future events people will interpret your invitation to invite their whole family plus additional staff.

    If you feel more comfortable, you could add more clarity to the invitation to say that additional guests may be allowed but to please contact the organizers if you plan on inviting more than two people.

    That way you can determine on a case by case basis if the venue will be able to accommodate the additional guests.

  27. Echo*

    Ha, my partner’s work holiday* party was notorious for this. People would regularly bring more than one plus-one, because the venue is huge and there’s always an abundance of food and drink left over. He and I even brought a friend one year and had a blast. But after someone brought 7+ friends and–to my understanding–things got rowdy, they cracked down, angry emails were sent, and they have clarified one guest per person… except there’s no enforcement as far as I can tell. Last year we still walked right in without any kind of ID check.

    (*It’s a Christmas party. AAM has always been great about pointing this out, so now I try to too.)

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        But just think what a great entry it would be for the annual “bizarre things that happened at your holiday office party” thread if the whole comment section showed up at yours!

        1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

          I just pictured a holiday party where everyone from the comments section showed up as different classic AAM stories from previous holiday party posts. Like the dude who played the piano at the woman, the boss whose boob stuck to the frozen pole/railing, etc. That would be a wild party.
          (I volunteer to be the attendee to write the email afterward planning to confront everyone by Wednesday.)

  28. Falling Diphthong*

    I lean toward the weird confluence. (“I have to be at a work thing, and at this family thing… the way to make that work is to bring everyone to the work thing and pay for them. We’re going out to dinner, fam!”) And so letting a weird one-off be a weird one-off.

  29. JC*

    This definitely sounds like a problem the letter writer created, the invitation sounds like a family event, and Pam was likely expecting everyone to bring their spouses and kids. It would be silly to expect her to bring one or two kids only, and bringing her mother in law might seem normal if she’s part of their regular family unit.

    I think the letter writer needs to be far more specific if they see it as an adults with a plus one event. I get the impression they found it odd she brought kids, but they specifically said kids on the invite lol

    1. Anna*

      Agree- bringing MIL seems normal if she lives with them full time and is part of their family. It also seems normal if she lives far away but happened to be visiting during this event. I could imagine a scenario where it’s weird, but there are two such common normal scenarios that explain it, that it seems strange to me that her presence is getting so much scrutiny.

      1. Lydia*

        MIL lives with me, and I would not include her in a work event as a guest. A picnic or other thing, maybe, but definitely not an awards ceremony/work social thing in the evening. If she were visiting from out of town, and I could not beg off from the event, I would go alone for a short period of time before leaving. Imagine visiting from out of town and hanging out with your DIL’s coworkers. It sounds boring to me.

        1. Anna*

          OK, boring to you, but not to everyone. My mom lives a 4 hour flight away, so if she happened to be visiting the week of my work event, she’d be less bored going to a restaurant with me and my husband and 4 kids than staying at my house by herself. In fact, my mom has attended one of my work’s social events with me and my baby, and she enjoyed meeting my boss and coworkers, and going to the outing.

          1. Anna*

            I guess my point is- even if it seems boring to you, and your own MIL would choose to spend her evening at home reading, or whatever, that doesn’t mean that either Pam or the MIL did anything inappropriate.

  30. ManagerMom*

    Honestly, I am team Pam here. “Plus ones, including kids” to me reads as “feel free to bring your spouse and kids.” She has four kids – is she supposed to pick her favorite two? So that already gets her to six people.

    Since she is bringing four kids to an event where she also has to present, bringing additional childcare is not unreasonable, and could even be read as considerate. As for the MIL, who knows if she was in town for the week or had just gone through a breakup or they live in an multi-generational household and it would be weird to leave her at home (same with the nanny, if they are a live-in or an au pair, which when done properly is a hybrid caregiver/host family situation).

    I don’t know the company culture – if these events are always small and attended by just staff, this is a faux pas, but not a major one since she paid for everyone. But the invite makes it sound like a social event with family, where you mingle personal and professional life. Pam, it seems, has a rich and well-populated personal life!

    If it’s difficult to find a way to phrase the invites that doesn’t feel petty and overly bureaucratic, it may be because seeking to do so for a function like this is kind of petty and overly bureaucratic. I also think that if her actions were truly out of step with company culture, Pam may adjust accordingly next time, and if not, that’s worth a conversation.

    But employees have kids (sometimes a lot of them!) and spouses, and non-traditional families, and having expectations about what bringing “family” looks like – and thinking worse of someone for not fitting that mold – might hamper the company’s efforts to be fully inclusive, which can have knock on effects on recruiting, retention, etc.

    1. Addison DeWitt*

      “But employees have kids (sometimes a lot of them!) and spouses, and non-traditional families, and having expectations about what bringing “family” looks like – and thinking worse of someone for not fitting that mold – might hamper the company’s efforts to be fully inclusive, which can have knock on effects on recruiting, retention, etc.”

      Yipes. No, when there’s a work function and your family outnumbers the actual employees, you’re hijacking the event and need a talking to.

        1. edda ed*

          tbh I don’t see what this comment has to do with Addison’s comment. Addison was talking about the number of guests, not whether or not they were children

          1. saskia*

            Addison mentioned Pam “hijacking” the event because her family outnumbered employee attendees. ManagerMom is saying that the invitation including “kids” means accepting that, hey, some people have more then just 1 or 2 kids. I doubt Pam knew her guests would outnumber the employees, unless she’s done things like this before…

            1. fhqwhgads*

              For me whether she could’ve reasonably known her guests would outnumber the employees is a big question as to whether Pam made a reasonable oops based on ambiguous invite or not. Pam probably wouldn’t know how many other people are bringing guests and how many those other guests would be. But if she’s the one presenting the award, it wouldn’t be odd to me for her to have an idea of how many coworkers are probably going. Not impossible she didn’t know, in which case, ok fine. But I usually have some sort of idea of how big a work event is going to be if I’m going. Like if Pam had reason to believe there were going to be 50 coworkers there, who may or may not have guests, then her +7 feels a lot less disproportionate than what happened. Whereas if she had reason to expect less than a dozen coworkers were coming who might or might not bring guests, she had reason to know her party would dominate the space, which most people would feel awkward about.

      1. Peachtree*

        I don’t know how you get from 8 of 19 people were Pam’s family to … “your family outnumbers the actual employees”. Might be worth a re-read

        1. Myrin*

          I don’t agree with Addison but her math isn’t too far off: 8 of the 19 people were Pam’s party, meaning 11 weren’t. OP says “everyone else came alone or with one guest”, so even if only one other employee brought one guest and everyone else came alone, that would still pan out to 8 guests (Pam’s 7 and the one other one) and 11 employees, which isn’t “outnumbering” exactly but it’s somewhat close, and given that it’s highly likely more than only one person brought one guest, there could actually easily have been more Pam People than employees.

        2. Addison DeWitt*

          Okay, “slightly under HALF of the attendees of a work function were Pam’s family.” So much better!

      2. Ellis Bell*

        But if the invitation suggests people bring family members, of course the relatives would outnumber the staff. That’s what happens when kids are at events. At my dad’s company Christmas party, complete with a Santa and kids DJ of course there were more kids than colleagues because each employee had an average two or three kids. I honestly can’t think of a situation were someone with kids would be expected to choose just one child to bring to what seems like a family friendly event.

    2. ElizabethJane*

      My counterpoint here is just…why? She clearly has childcare available and most reasonable adults aren’t going to think “let me bring my kids to this work dinner with our nanny”

      I guess my point is if the concern is the kids will be disruptive the reasonable answer is to not bring them, not to add more people.

      1. ManagerMom*

        My counter counter point would be “why not”? I’m basing this on the assumption (which may be wrong) that this event was not a formal work banquet but more of a social hour with some light programming. And either way, it sounds like something where the organizer was trying to encourage family to attend. So why shouldn’t she bring her family?

        Kids are always going to be a little disruptive, especially at social events. Even if they are generally good kids, there are FOUR of them, and in this setting one is going to want more lemonade and one is going to need an escort to the bathroom and one is SO BORED… everyone’s kids, not just hers, would be putting forth a version of this, but due to the fact that she has four, and had to present, having the childcare (that she paid for) is not unreasonable.

        That being said, she really had three child minders there (nanny, husband, MIL), but I think it’s better to err on the more charitable interpretations offered here – confluence of events, didn’t realize it would be such a big presence compared to the rest of the team, etc.

        I guess the question is, did having her big group their ruin the evening, disrupt the chemistry, or otherwise “hijack” the event? Or was it just out of step with expectations? The LW doesn’t say, and I think that’s a key point.

        1. LW*

          OP here! Honestly, it wasn’t a huge disruption. It was awkward, but didn’t derail the evening or anything. Family Pam hung out on one side of the room and the rest of the party on the other, but there was polite small talk all around and Erin got her award on time. I’m torn about whether it’s worth trying to be more specific in the future, because if 12 employees had each brought 7 guests then we’d be a party of 96 with a reservation for ~20, and because it really was kind of awkward. But I think Alison is right that the best response is to assume it was a weird one-off and to speak to Pam individually if it happens again.

          1. Boof*

            I think you are too hung up on awkward. However, if you really want it to be a +1 event (because of space limitations, or intended networking function, etc) then just say it is s +1 event and let specific people know if someone extra is ok if i’s important

          2. Jake*

            As somebody who is very literal, please rewrite the invite next time. Not because of Pam (as she almost certainly now knows the intent), but because you are going to have this happen again with another employee eventually. I’ve read the invite 10 times now, and I still have a hard time figuring out how you could read this as anything other than, “you can bring however many people you want, including kids, but you have to pay for them all.”

            If this comment section is anything to go by, there is a strong minority of people that interpret it that same way, so another issue like this happening seems somewhere between possible and probable.

      2. Shiara*

        But the invitation said children. Why not bring your children if other people are bringing theirs? Everyone enjoys a dinner out, the children get to see mom present a cool award, and get some exposure to other adults and children in a slightly more formal setting.

        Obviously other people did not bring their small children the same way and there was a cultural mismatch. But it’s not necessarily ludicrous as a parent to decide to include your children in a work event when the children appear to be invited!

    3. SoloKid*

      “Since she is bringing four kids to an event where she also has to present, bringing additional childcare is not unreasonable”

      I don’t follow this. Yes, it is actually possible to pick two (or no) kids, perhaps ones that are old enough to not need diaper changes, or teens interested in the industry etc. And “enough kids that my partner can wrangle” is also a good measurement. I think the venue matters as well – if it were an outdoor picnic, I can see 7 “plus ones” being a bit more acceptable than at a sit down restaurant.

      1. ManagerMom*

        There is a lot of context about the event that we are missing, which makes it hard to zero in on what exactly went down in this case. We don’t know if Pam knew ahead of time that she would be the bulk of the party (and if that matters). We don’t know if her group size hampered the event in any way, or just stood out. We don’t know if Pam is otherwise out of step with the company culture and this is just one in a string of incidents.

        But I want to gently push against the implication that being a working person with four children – and the support network those children require – is somehow professionally unseemly.

        From what we can tell, this was a social work event with family invited. She brought her family, and for her that may mean this collection of kids and childcare and in-laws. It’s not unprofessional to have four children. It’s DEFINITELY not unprofessional to employ a complicated, multi-person system of care that allows you to have a career and four children. There seems to be some assumptions that yes, the event was for family, but not THAT much family. That “family” means a spouse and one to two well behaved children, and if that’s not you, you should have the good sense to fake it – pick one or two of your kids and hide the fact that you need additional caregivers.

        Now, if this big family was a huge disruption to the event and the OP doesn’t want that many people next time, they have every right to implement a more clearly-stated policy. But that policy might mean no kids, vs figuring out a clever way to make clear they only want to accommodate families with a fewer kids. It might mean “each employee can bring two guests” and even families with two kids has to pick one or leave the spouse at home. It might mean saying “spouses and children only” and then you have a smaller number of people but potentially more disruptions, or less participation from people who need more help.

        But I think we should be careful about working from an assumption that there are certain kinds of professionally appropriate families, and the expectation that people who don’t fit that mold will understand they are in the wrong and figure out how to fall in line.

        1. So Tired*

          Yes!! So much this! Families aren’t the single partner/spouse and 2.5 kids that they once were. Some families have just one kid, and some can have 7! Some families are two parents and no kids, and some families are multigenerational units that all contribute together. Picking and choosing which kinds of families are acceptable at work events is a massive overstep imo. I don’t think Pam was wrong for how she went about this event, in hindsight maybe she’ll realize she needs to ask more questions when she gets an ambiguous invitation, but her reasoning was sound, based on what the LW submitted.

  31. Sassenach*

    Based on how the invite was worded I see nothing wrong with what Pam did and I assume the nanny was there to help with the kids or the nanny is considered part of the family. Maybe the mother in law was visiting from out of town..who knows. Pam paid for all her guests and since you did not mention it I assume none of them were disruptive. When and if you do reword the invitation to the next event be sure not to shame Pam.

  32. lost academic*

    The wording of that invitation definitely reads to me like everyone’s family is welcome and so I expect that Pam didn’t think that her family would be such a notable percentage of the attendees. I wouldn’t do or say anything unless it happened again and I would bet that it wouldn’t anyway. If the event wasn’t intended for families then it should be written differently but not in response to Pam committing a faux pas – I think this is on someone else and she was just accidentally misled.

    1. dawbs*

      Yeah I saw this as ‘bring the family’ and if 3 other people had brought their spouses and kids, then Pam’s family would have been ‘one of several’ instead of ‘most of the guests’.

      So it feels like this was a family invite that everyone else interpreted as NOT a family invite. I guess the question is whether it should remain a ‘family invite’ or whether new people should be told “hey, family can come, but nobody brings them–it’s a courtesy invitation to ignore”

    2. lucanus cervus*

      Yeah, I think Pam was probably expecting more people to bring their kids based on ‘kids are welcome’! It honestly wouldn’t occur to me to bring one child as my +1 unless I happened to be a single parent of one child (what should a single parent of multiple children do?) or I had an older kid who was interested in the industry, which is possible but not likely to apply to very many people.

      1. ManagerMom*

        As a single parent with multiple children, I bring the nanny!

        As a manager, I also try not to schedule too many professional events after working hours. One, because it’s hard for me, but two because it’s hard for a lot of working parents – you often have to choose between getting a sitter, wrangling the kids at a work event, or staying home and missing out on important networking and relationship building.

  33. ElizabethJane*

    I’d probably just word future invites with “partners and children welcome” and then the caveat about a ayung for them. Because presumably if Pam had just brought her 4 kids and husband it would be fine (even if that’s a lot of kids) but it was the nanny and MIL that tipped it over. Or “in addition to your plus one, minor children are welcome”.

    In general I agree that further clarification shouldn’t be needed but who knows.

  34. Hiring Mgr*

    This doesn’t really seem like a problem, plus it sounds like she only brought two extra people, not seven.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Her husband was her +1, then she had her four kids, the nanny, and her MIL. 6 extra guests besides her husband.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Since she paid for everyone in her family, they weren’t disruptive, and the wording on the invitation was kind of ambiguous, I can’t say it was a problem, either, and Pam shouldn’t get any grief for it. But she definitely had 7 guests with her.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          Right, but if the invite was open to spouse and kids they would have had five anyway. So there’s only two “extra”.

          1. lucanus cervus*

            I think that’s the thing – LW literally intended people to bring one other person, and didn’t mind if that person was a child. But +1 and kids welcome absolutely reads like you can bring another adult and all your children, to me. I think ‘plus one’ is doing a lot more work in LW’s mind than in Pam’s.

  35. MegPie*

    Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but to me “social hour” means an informal meet up to maybe have some drinks and food and catch up with your coworkers. That seems incongruous with awards being presented. Maybe she wanted her family there because she wanted them to see her doing something important.

  36. Bluebell*

    Question for the OP, have you had these sorts of events before? And do other people on the staff have kids as well? I agree with others that your wording was relatively clear, but it does get a little messy around the kids welcome phrasing. I worked at a place where there was a summer outing that kids were specifically welcome to, but they weren’t expected to be at the holiday party or other social events. I’m dying to know how that discussion went down in Pam’s household, and whether she wanted her family to see her doing something, or maybe she wanted to do something after work, and her husband said “if you want me to be there the whole family has to be there, I’m not staying home with the nanny and kids while you go out. “ Who knows? I do agree that four kids in public can be a lot, and having two adults to watch them while Husband watches Pam present the award makes sense.

  37. ThisIshRightHere*

    Aside from the invitation being worded to allow for just such an interpretation as Pam’s, I guess I just don’t see what’s so wrong with the number of people Pam brought. If the event were hosted or the venue was someone’s home, then there’s a bit more protocol to consider. But a corporate dinner [presumably] in a restaurant or some other public venue, *and* folks are footing their own bill? What’s inherently inappropriate about it?

    1. me again*

      What was wrong is that her family dominated and was the majority of those present, for a work event.

      1. Ahnon4Thisss*

        It is entirely possible that Pam did not expect that to happen and thought others would be bringing their children as well to make their guest groups bigger as well.

        I really do not think this was intentionally trying to dominate a work event, and I’m not sure what she was supposed to do. Send her family away after they all showed up together?

      2. Oryx*

        You’re assuming Pam knew nobody else would be bringing their kids. If everyone brought their partner and kids and there was a larger attendance, thus no longer making Pam’s guests half the number, would OP have even bothered to write in?

      3. Ellis Bell*

        Generally though, guests are not included at all if you want the event to be more work focused than social. I’ve been to events were you are supposed to bond with or focus on colleagues, and partners or plus ones aren’t typically invited to those. I did have a job were the boss wanted to build a real community and have kid and family friendly events who was all “bring everyone, bring your nana!” so work talk took a back seat, and then there were the third type of occasions were just significant others were invited, which is a bit a mid ground between the two.

  38. Mark This Confidential and Leave It Laying Around*

    I doubt Pam will do this repeatedly. Imagine how bored her +6 must have been!

  39. Lurker*

    Why did the needs even come? If there was a nanny, why didn’t the nanny just stay home with the kids?

    1. Dahlia*

      Because she thought her children were invited. And making sure your 4 kids don’t run wild is a good thing.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Because it seemed like the invitation encouraged people to bring their children? Some people really, really like to bring their children to stuff, as long as they think they are welcome.

    3. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

      Back when I worked as a part-time nanny, it wasn’t uncommon for people I worked with to ask if I would be available to attend an event with them to chaperone their kids (even if they were there), the idea being that I would be primarily responsible for the kids so that they would be freer to be “on” at the event. I don’t think I ever actually accepted one of these invitations so I can’t tell you how it worked in practice, but I’m thinking that was what Pam was going for here. I think she was anticipating a much bigger event with many more kids than happened in practice.

  40. umami*

    Wow, I guess I misread it too, because it sounds to me like ‘plus ones AND kids’ are welcome because at the end it says something about paying for ‘guests’, which presumes more than ‘plus one’. I still wouldn’t have done it, but if it were to happen to me, I would see why someone could be confused. It’s a public venue, and having the nanny to mind the kids actually sounds like it would make sense. Anyway. YMMV.

  41. Dawn*

    I don’t even like children and y’all in the comments today are way too pressed about this, haha.

    While the numbers are a little odd, unless they were actively causing a disruption – and the LW has not indicated such – there was nothing actually wrong about bringing four children and three guests to an event whose invites said, “Kids and guests are welcome,” and in the case of the kids and the husband there wasn’t even anything unexpected. The MIL may also have been someone who couldn’t be left home alone, and the nanny’s presence there is for very obvious reasons under the circumstances.

    “Pam brought seven guests” looks a little wild written in a single sentence like that but when you actually examine it a little closer, it falls much more closely to “mildly unusual” than “actual issue”.

  42. lovehater*

    I can see why she thought, well, kids are welcome and I am paying for them so I’ll bring the whole crew.

  43. edda ed*

    I will say that “plus-ones” is probably not the best wording to begin with when referring to something that is singular in the name (“plus-one”). Live and learn.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I think what’s confusing is that there are invitation conventions out there which tend to treat the issue of bringing kids to an event as being completely separate to the “plus one”. So, you invite your friend and their partner, or plus one, to an event but specify separately whether their kids are also welcome or if they’re not. Obviously you don’t put a limit on how many of their kids they can bring, if kids are welcome. If you invite a single parent to an event, the offer of a plus one would be commonly understood to refer to an adult date, friend or relative. The inclusion of kids is usually a matter of whether there will be other kids there and is rarely limited to just one kid per person.

      1. edda ed*

        Maybe so, but considering kids as separate from the plus-one doesn’t explain the three adults (spouse, nanny, MIL). If OP intended for the employees to bring multiple guests, “plus-three” or “plus-[insert number here]” is way less ambiguous than “plus-ones.”

        I think OP thought the invite was addressing the entire group of employees, which is why they worded it like “plus-ones,” but Pam thought the invite was addressing each employee individually. I could see the group address if the invitation was on a poster in the breakroom or something, but if the invitations were sent to each employee, it makes more sense to think they were individually addressed.

  44. kiki*

    I feel like a likely scenario is that Pam thought other folks would bring their whole families (since the invite said that kids are welcome) and then thought, “Well, MIL is in town, and what’s one more person?! Oh, and the nanny will help watch the kids when I make my speech, so that will be better for everyone! And I’ll be paying their way anyway, so it doesn’t matter.”

    So in this scenario, Pam felt like she was really just brining 2 “extra” people. But in reality, most people were not planning on bringing their whole families (or don’t have families or partners to bring) so her group stood out a lot more than intended.

    If it happens again (or has happened before) I would bring it up, but I would guess that Pam probably realized she had misunderstood the event’s plus one situation shortly after arriving.

    1. ThisIshRightHere*

      “a likely scenario is that Pam thought other folks would bring their whole families (since the invite said that kids are welcome) and then thought, “Well, MIL is in town, and what’s one more person?! Oh, and the nanny will help watch the kids when I make my speech, so that will be better for everyone! And I’ll be paying their way anyway, so it doesn’t matter.””

      exactly this.

  45. Annony*

    I do think the wording needs to be changed if the intention is one guest per person. All the plurals (especially “You’ll be paying for your own guests”) implies to me that families are welcome. I do think the employee took it farther than was reasonable even given the wording, but bringing her spouse and children would be in line with what the invitation said. I think saying “You are welcome to bring a guest” would be clearer than “Plus-ones are welcome.” You could also include an RSVP so that you have a total head count and can contact anyone who tries to RSVP for too many.

    1. Annony*

      I also wonder about specifying that kids can be plus ones on the invitation, especially since it sounds like a small event. If you are trying to accommodate someone in particular, you could always reach out to them individually to clarify that their kid can be their plus one instead of including it on the invitation. But in general, it may be easier to leave that off and avoid the family picnic vibe and just not specify age of guests at all. You can always clarify if asked.

  46. Punk*

    This is one of those “social contract” things. The invitation was confusing and it seems no one on the backend knew or asked about Pam’s guest list, but Pam also should have realized that she was going against expectations, and there are certain questions that shouldn’t be ambiguous to a clued-in adult. Someone who’s in a position to present an award is also in a position to know the exact nature of the event and to ask the planners the necessary questions.

    1. amoeba*

      Yeah, I found that wording to be very confusing. I mean, surely a plus one would include children anyway? Or, you know, whoever you want to bring? So the additional mention of “including children” would make me think it would be children in addition to the adult plus one. Which makes the whole scenario much less weird…

  47. Hybrid Employee (Part Human, Part Wolf)*

    oof, I think this is tough, because you were relying entirely on stuff you DIDN’T write to communicate something different from what you DID write.

    If I had gotten that invitation, I would read it as “Cool, this is in the vein of a company picnic, families welcome,” and while I would likely not have included my MIL, the kids-and-partner package seems very much under the umbrella of the invite, and the nanny isn’t illogical with four kids.

    But you were counting on an unwritten social norm, or the specific context of your company/region/industry, that would tell her not to do what you kind of said she could do. I’ve definitely been to restaurants that were partially occupied by a company event including families, but only in the mid/southeast US; I’ve known large companies that hold family-oriented events, and industries where that’s the norm. If any of those pieces are in place for you, I would say Pam probably made a reasonable assumption based on the information she had.

    1. KateM*

      Company picnic where at first Pam gives a little speech and gives out that award, and then everyone eats and drinks and chats and with other people (and kids run around together) – that’s how that invitation sounds to me, too.

  48. learnedthehardway*

    Considering that Pam was the guest of honour (she was getting an award), I think she might have asked if it was okay for her whole family to attend, but I wouldn’t think it overly strange that she didn’t. I mean, she did bring extra adults to kid-wrangle. And she had won an award – might be the perfect opportunity to show her kids the value of hard work, get appreciated by her husband and MIL, etc. etc.

    I would assume Pam had her reasons for doing this and not saying anything.

  49. Pyjamas*

    I was really hoping from headline that someone brought their whole polycule! It’d be so badass that I’d want to promote the employee

  50. Young Business*

    I’ve never heard of an office social hour allowing people to bring guests, and then there was an award presented? Is this similar to a Dundees ‘The Office’ situation, lol?

    I’m also confused about the OP’s verbiage versus desired outcome. It’s either you want only one additional person to join, and in that case, don’t list that kids are welcome.

    1. The Original K.*

      Maybe this is what’s tripping me up, the event itself. It doesn’t sound like a plus-one event to me; it’s not a holiday party or summer picnic. It sounds like a departmental happy hour with some employer/department-specific awards. If there were only 19 people there and eight were Pam & her fam, it was always going to be a pretty small event that would be fairly dull for guests, particularly kids. It sounds like an “I have to stay late at work to present an award so let’s plan on asking the nanny for an additional two hours” kind of thing, vs. a “let’s make a family event of it” kind of thing.

      1. AngryOctopus*


        And I do think Pam should have realized this–she was presenting an award! You generally have an idea of the audience for said award being given out!

    2. Shiara*

      It’s possible the children verbiage was intended to allow widow Martha to bring her adult daughter Katelyn as her +1, and most people involved don’t have young children so the ambiguity wasn’t realized.

      1. Annony*

        I thought it was to accommodate a single parent who struggles to get childcare after hours. In either case, I think it would be easier to specify in person that it would be ok to bring Timmy as their plus one rather than specifically say on the invitation that kids are welcome when it isn’t really a kid oriented event.

    3. uncivil servant*

      Exactly! Did they really want someone to bring a single toddler as their guest?? That’s one person, but it’s almost certainly not the tone they wanted for the evening.

      Did they want someone to bring a friend as a random plus one? Or were they just thinking that Jen would bring her partner, Bob would want to bring his 22-year-old daughter and Larry would bring his wife and they wanted an inclusive word for all guests? With a group that small the email should just say 1 guest and people can ask you if they have questions.

  51. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    The only thing that makes Pam kinda weird on this is the mother law. Like huh?

    I think bringing the nanny is smart, could help keep kids quiet… four kids is a lot for the
    husband to keep still even if he is Father of the year.

  52. Justin*

    How dare you besmirch the Dundie legacy.

    Anyway, Pam (ha, considering the Office reference) made an odd choice. I’d just limit the number of guests. They are allowing us to bring a guest on a big work trip but it’s spelled out as one and of course we have to pay their way (though presumably they can stay with us in our room).

    1. HannahS*

      LW, if you want people to bring one person, you need to watch your plurals. “Plus-ones are welcome including kids” is confusing. I would read that and think it was ok to bring both my partner and our child, when it seems like you only wanted one guest per person. Next time, say, “Each person can bring one guest.”

  53. Some Dude*

    “There’s nothing in the rules that says a dog can’t play basketball” is nothing compared to the rules lawyering in some of these comments.

    “Plus-ones are welcome, including kids.” It says “including” as in “part of”, not “in addition to”. To me, it’s pretty obvious the intent was to relay that age was not a limiting factor. The “one” also indicates a single guest. Yes, there are plurals, but as the audience included multiple people, using singular nouns would have been awkward.

    Pam apparently had numerous people who could have attended to her children. There is no reason she had to bring more than a single guest.

    1. edda ed*

      Yeah, I so feel your first line. “The invite did not explicitly prohibit 7 people.” Man oh man. OP messed up a little with that weirdly worded invite, in which “one” became plural, Pam messed up a little by misinterpreting the concept of “plus-one.” But seriously, when was the last time you got an invite that said “Do not bring 7 other people with you”? It’s fine for an invite to say what is allowed, and it doesn’t have to go through every single thing that is prohibited.

      “The invite did not explicitly prohibit 7 people.” Does the invite need a code of conduct attached specifying that it is prohibited to squirt mustard from a squeeze bottle at your fellow attendees?

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Yeah, but do you really think Pam was scheming to bring all these guests (that she had to pay for anyway), and was just looking for a technicality get away with it?

        It seems more likely that she just misunderstood. Plus who cares anyway? It sounds like the event went on as planned

        1. edda ed*

          I don’t think Pam was scheming anything. In my comment, all I said was that “Pam messed up a little.” Most of my comment was a continuation of Some Dude’s comment about the reaching in the comments.

        2. edda ed*

          This bugged me a bit, so I’m going to say it: it bothers me that you got “think Pam was scheming” from me saying “Pam messed up a little.” Then you go on to say “she just misunderstood.”

          From my eye, “Pam messed up a little” and “she just misunderstood” are very close, nearly aligned. So we think alike in regards to how Pam handled things, but you still framed my position as “Pam was scheming to bring all these guests.”

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            Sorry about that – I though you had meant Pam was purposely “rules lawyering” to bring everyone when she knew she shouldn’t, since you seemed to agree with that take in the comment above yours.

            So i was referring to that part of your comment, not the Pam messed up a little. But I get what you mean now

            1. edda ed*

              The OP comment in this thread still refers to rules lawyering in this post’s comments, not by Pam. And I do agree with it.

              But thank you for giving my comments a closer read and clarifying what you meant.

              1. Hiring Mgr*

                I hear you – but aren’t the commenters just doing the same as Pam – misunderstanding the wording of the invite?

                We know after the fact what OP meant, but I think people are trying to see it from Pam’s perspective at the time.

                1. edda ed*

                  Maybe in the broad strokes, Pam and the commenters are both misunderstanding the wording. I still see Pam (“plus-ones and kids welcome,” plus-ones is plural, so maybe that’s just a usage a little divorced from the original meaning, so I’ll bring plus-ones and my kids) as a lot different from the comments referred to in this thread (XYZ thing isn’t expressly prohibited, so it’s A-OK to do, and it’s on LW to spell out every single thing that is not allowed in the invite).

                  Sometimes “I wasn’t told not to do [whatever].” is said in innocence, but the rest of the time, “You never told me not to.” is totally rules lawyering. I find it pretty weak as an argument. It’s stepparent to the child’s insistence “I’m not touching you~” So often, some rule banning something wild, totally-out-there? Born from that incident where someone wasn’t expressly forbidden from doing that wild, totally-out-there thing.

    2. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      But you have to communicate based on what results you want, with an understanding of how people actually do interpret information.

      It isn’t about saying “technically the letter of the invite said XXX”, it’s about saying “if a lot of people feed back that they’d interpret thing wrongly (which they are), how can I be clearer to avoid future confusion?”

    3. Punk*

      I think there might be a perception in the office that Pam steamrolled an event to suit her own conveniences when the event was really about something else; bringing kids to a happy hour or team dinner changes the natures of the event for people who have no connection to those kids. I think LW might be mentally looking ahead and trying to figure out how to prevent Pam from doing this again without taking things away from other people. Because I’m not anti-kid, but if my team dinner suddenly involved one person’s whole family, I’m just not interested anymore, and the company will have paid to feed employees who now don’t have great associations with these types of events.

    4. umami*

      Therein lies the rub. Including means ‘part of’, and it can also mean ‘in addition to’. So Pam isn’t at fault for not knowing precisely which version of ‘including’ was intended. We know because OP has clarified, but ‘in addition to’ is a common and acceptable translation for the word OP used.

      1. Myrin*

        Huh? Maybe it’s because I’m not a native speaker but I don’t see how “including” can ever mean “in addition to”. Like, it literally means “included in what I just said”. Can you give an example of the other meaning?

    5. Head sheep counter*

      The comments here are giving me anxiety about ever inviting anyone anywhere… I mean… jeepers. “Jane would you like to come to my party, RSVP with a plus one or not”… Jane shows up with… seven people… unrelated in anyway to the event I invited her to….

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        But your invitation says specifically “a plus one” but the invite in question also includes “plus-ones”, “kids” and “guests”. That’s three plurals.

    6. Lexie*

      It’s possible that Pam thought the OP had messed up the wording and meant to convey that kids were welcome in addition to a date. Because quite frankly why would you tell someone they can only bring one of their children to an event? I can see having an age restriction because of the venue or type of event but just being told I can only bring one kid is weird.

      1. amoeba*

        Yup. Also, if a plus one is already invited, why would you need the special mention of “including kids”? Yeah, maybe to say that it’s OK for the plus one to be a minor, but… it took me a lot of comments to even get to that idea and I don’t think my reading comprehension is that bad.

  54. Rachel*

    I also just want to say that I’m impressed all these people wanted to go to this.

    The nanny is being paid so at least there is that for her. But why would the kids or the MIL WANT to go?

    That’s my biggest question.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I can think of a few reasons:

      1) Maybe they really like that restaurant.

      2) Maybe they really like each other and enjoy spending time together.

      3) Maybe Pam works a lot and they don’t get much family time, so this is an outing.

      4) Maybe they are proud of Pam’s job and want to show their kids that moms can have cool important jobs where they are in charge of giving awards.

      5) Maybe they overestimated the cool factor of it being an “awards dinner.”

      6) Maybe Pam is the designated cook, so this was the best way to get the family fed when she wasn’t going to be home for dinner.

      7) Maybe they are the kind of family who is just game for anything, so when one person suggested they all go, the others were like, “sure, why not?”

      1. Rachel*

        I endorse 4.

        The rest are outliers in most work and family cultures. Not impossible. But an outlier.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I do not agree that a single item on that list is an outlier, they all sound super normal and reasonable to me.

          1. Rachel*

            1: it is plausible this is their favorite restaurant. But if Pam is paying anyway, why not go any other day if the week? If the venue is exclusive, then this take makes sense. If it’s public, it does not.

            6: it is plausible Pam usually makes dinner. But even if Pam and her husband attend the work function, that leaves her MIL and their nanny to figure out dinner. Which I am confident they can do, or Pam can Door Dash since she is obviously fine paying for dinner out.

        2. RagingADHD*

          I am not saying it is a commonplace thing to do. But there are a lot of potential reasons for it that aren’t outlandish, just a bit off-center.

          However, I am extremely impressed that you know enough people’s families intimately, from enough different cultures, that you can assess what is an outlier or not.

        3. Elsajeni*

          You think it is an outlier situation that a family might like each other and enjoy spending time together?

          1. Rachel*

            This is disingenuous.

            I think families love each other and want to spend time together all the time. That doesn’t mean every invitation to one family member is appropriate for all family members.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      Mine too! As someone presenting an award, surely Pam knew 1-the approximate size of the event and 2-that it seems to be a majority work event, not a majority social event (think group dinner where you mostly discuss work vs. outdoor company picnic with things for kids and adults to do). Why she then thought “oh, let’s bring the kids, and then obviously we’ll need the nanny, and then let’s bring MIL who is here!” is kinda beyond me!

      1. Rachel*

        And if the kids are young enough to need a nanny are they really absorbing this as a Teaching Moment?

        1. ADidgeridooForYou*

          Young children are constantly absorbing what’s happening around them, even if they’re small enough to need a nanny. Even if they’re not understanding it on the same level as an adult, they’re still learning. They can still see Mommy on a stage and talking to people and understand that it’s important, even if they don’t get all the context. Plus, nannies can help out with kids up to 10 years old. I definitely went to watch my dad get an award when I was around 8.

          1. Rachel*

            Pam was presenting an award, not receiving one.

            If she was receiving, I would be less surprised at the turnout.

      2. Lexie*

        Just because she was presenting an award doesn’t mean she was given any details beyond what was included in the invite.

  55. Llama Llama*

    Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill (commenters more than OP). It was little awkward because Pam took an invite that she could bring her kids that she could bring her kids (and reinforcement to ensure that they were not disruptive).
    I am going to guess that they interacted with themselves and didn’t make the others interact with them much or at all.
    Next time if you don’t want family at events don’t say kids can come if it actually causes problems.

  56. whistle*

    This invitation reads like it is for families. If it is your intention for employees to feel comfortable bringing one and only person from their family, I suggest rewording the invitation going forward.

  57. arcya*

    Honestly I’m guessing Pam thought the event was going to be bigger than it was, and other attendees would be bringing multiple family members. Since she was presenting an award I imagine her family wanted to come see her stand on stage. It was an odd choice for sure! But I think it’s likely she misunderstood the event, and unless it happens again I’d just register it under “awkward stuff that happens sometimes.”

  58. saskia*

    The invite included kids. Pam has four kids, so either way, her + husband + kids = six people. What’s the issue with two more?

    I’m also confused by all the commenters asking why non-Pam family members would even want to go to this event. Have none of you ever went to work-related events with your parents? It was billed as a ‘social’ hour, kids were welcome, and Pam is speaking! If the restaurant is local, why not go?

    Next time, if you just want a single plus-one per person, limit it specifically on the invitation.

  59. Kermit’s Bookkeepers*

    I think it’s worth considering that “plus-one” has taken on a connotation lately that’s less about the singular number of guests and more about being a catch-all term for anyone who is important in your life but is not necessarily a romantic partner. I also hear phrases like “they can bring a couple of plus-ones” fairly frequently, but I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say “they get a plus-two.”

    I can see how the wording of the invitation, which indicated kids are welcome and plus-ones are plural, may have led Pam to assume this would be a bigger and more family-friendly event than it was. She probably thought there would be other work-kids there for her kids to hang out with, needed someone to help her wrangle them while she was focused on work, and didn’t want to leave her MIL home alone.

    If I were Pam, I would either be mortified to have so totally misconstrued the event, or baffled as to why the company would invite kids to something that was so small. Either way, Allison’s fix of specifying how many plus-ones are appropriate next time is enough.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I totally see why “plus ones” were plurals in the mind of OP, because she was having to plan for Y number of employees, with a “plus one” each; that’s a plural for her, because she has to accommodate more than one non employee. But you have to phrase things from the recipient’s perspective on invitations; use names and numbers which are specific to them. Not only do they need to hear plus one in the singular, but they should also be told if there’s a max capacity and to RSVP who is coming if numbers are actually all that important. Also I think it’s important to, realize that as soon as you mention kids, the concept of “plus one” and limited guests is blown wide open; they think you if you mention kids that you actively want kids there and both convention and practical consideration means that people will likely bring more than one kid in addition to their adult plus one.

    2. Weez*

      I agree. For anyone who wants to experience what Kermit is saying, check out the comments on the plus poly letter: some commenters also spoke about things like “how many plus ones”.

      (It annoyed me a lot, which is why I remember…)

    3. Head sheep counter*

      Multiple plus ones is… mathematically and grammatically awful. But given the general responses around here… it does seem like… its a thing.

  60. Ahnon4Thisss*

    I feel like there is missing context here or expectations were not set accordingly. You cannot tell someone they can bring as many plus ones as they want, including their kids, as long as they pay and then be astonished that they followed up and took that offer. Pam might have expected more children to be brought because it was advertised as child friendly! The event advertised that she could bring her children, so I’m not sure why a lot of commenters are saying it was rude that Pam brought her children who would interrupt.

    Bringing the MIL is a little weird, but it seems like Pam was doing something important and maybe wanted family there for it. The nanny, I can see as her way of taking care of the children while she’s busy presenting.

    In the future, if you don’t want this to happen, I’d limit the number of guests someone can bring and maybe put an age requirement if children are invited.

    1. Nathan*

      Completely agree. I can see where OP is coming from, but the wording of the invite is so ambiguous I can see how Pam would read it and assume it was a family event!

  61. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    So I’m trying to double-check OP’s math here. It sounds like out of the 19 people at the party, there were 7-8 employees including Pam, 7 of Pam’s family members, and 4-5 other guests.

    Did Pam maybe think that other people would be bringing their kids too, so that they could socialize with each other?

    1. Rachel*

      I am guessing that one of two things happened:

      (1) Pam read this to be a family friendly event and everybody was bringing their whole family or

      (2) Pam’s family had something else to do before or after the event and it made more sense for their group to stay together the whole night

  62. And The Award Goes To*

    This seems like a very understandable mistake to make by Pam. There’s an award ceremony, but only 11 people are there? The invite said bring your kids? This very much sound like a “bring your family” event.

    This reminds me of a time I was working for a murder mystery theatre troupe. The company is international, but our city’s troupe was relatively new and so the rotating group of actors was probably 30 people. Well, our director wanted to throw a banquet at the end of the first year.

    Now, this director held rehearsals in his 2 br apartment. No, not in the social room at his complex, but in his personal apartment. When we had gigs, they paid us for a 2 hour gig and gas-reimbursement above 50 miles (not mileage–they would calculate how much they think it would cost us in gas. So on a several hundred mile trip, they would pay us about $20 for the gas). The gigs were always at least 3 hours, we had gigs in other states, and we had to go pick up set/costumes from storage before gigs and drive them back – storage that was in a non-central location – without getting paid or compensated for that time or gas.

    So the banquet: he emailed about it many-a-time. He talked about the music, food, awards ceremony, and how the people from corporate would be there. Pluses are welcome! Let’s show them how great our team is!

    Well, we get to the banquet – it’s in the basement of this church. Ok, fine. We walk in expecting, I dunno, tables and chairs? No, it was clearly the rec room/children’s church area that hasn’t been cleaned up from the day’s activities. I wasn’t sure if it was known that we were there.

    There isn’t a food spread, but maybe 5 medium Dominos pizzas. My partner didn’t feel comfortable eating any of the food because there was not enough for even the workers that were there.

    Director is wearing jeans and a holey (not holy) shirt. I dressed in a casual but cute skirt and top. My partner wore nice slacks. Another couple showed up dressed for the red carpet–tuxedo and a ball gown. The director made fun of them.

    No one from corporate was there.

    The awards that were given out were more of a joke than the Dundies. The awards themselves were paper certificates. No, gosh no, not on the embossed cardstock. Black and white from the printer! And they were clearly stuffed in Director’s bag like a disorganized student looking for their homework they know they didn’t do.

    I understand a frugal company that needs to save money and be careful how they spend it. I understand not wanting to blow a bunch of money on a party. I understand finding cheap/free places and food for a group of 30+ people is difficult. However, this whole thing was just cheap. This was the cheap straw that broke the camels back.

    It was much cringe. We left as soon as we felt leaving wasn’t rude.

    It was also the last time I did any work for that company.

    All of that is to say I can understand the misunderstanding, and why Pam thought it was ok. And more than likely, as soon as she walked in, she realized her faux-pas just pretended like nothing was wrong.

    I’d bet she’d be mortified if she realized this whole article is about her mistake.

  63. All Het Up About It*

    Like others, I say taking the plurals out, particularly “guests,” could help prevent this in the future. The invitation does read a little awkwardly.

    I’m assuming it just felt weird having them there as such a large part of the the group, but this could cause issues with reservations, space in the meeting room, server availability, etc. An easy way to avoid that in the future is requiring RSVPs. Then if Pam (or someone else who got inspired by RSVPs for 8, you can head it off early.

  64. ina*

    Lots of speculation in the comments about WHY but you said a plural “plus-ones” and even went on to say ‘including kids’ (plural again). I am confused on why you didn’t think this wouldn’t turn into a raucous event with children running around. Definitely should have had RSVPs, because this is how you avoid jump scares like this. At the end of the day, she just did what the invite said she could do — invite her whole family as long as she’s willing to pay for them. She paid for them, so I don’t see the problem.

    I will be honest, I would read that invite as “this is family friendly” so I don’t see it as a social gaffe at all. It was likely embarrassing for her when she showed up to an adult affair after misreading the invite, but alas, what can she do other than minimize the damage and pretend nothing is up?

    1. fhqwhgads*

      I think both of those were originally listed as plural because the invite was directed to a group. That’s what brought in the ambiguity in the first place. To me it’s pretty clear OP didn’t think it would turn into people bringing multiples because they thought they were being clear that “kids” meant Coworker A’s kid and Coworker B’s kid and Coworker C’s kid, and “plus-ones” meant “Coworker A’s partner and Coworker B’s partner” etc. Whereas it’s easy for us from the outside to say “or it means Coworker A’s 4 kids and Coworker B’s 2 kids” etc. Plus the plural of “pay for your guests” added to the “if I’m paying of course there’s no limit”. But if the person writing it didn’t think of it, well, they didn’t think of it.

  65. Jamie (he/him)*

    LW, you say co-worker rather than someone you manage, but… it still might be worth keeping an eye on Pam as her work/life balance may be off-kilter and she might not even realise.

    A breakroom conversation to ask about her hobbies or how she winds down after a stressful day or something “offline” from work might give you a clue if what I (a total stranger on the internet who thus can and should be ignored) am now worrying about.

    I’ve no idea what you could practically do to help if it did turn out she was living to work rather than working to live, but there might be something.

    If I’m right. I’m very often not, so don’t sweat it!

    1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      I don’t see evidence for this really and feel like the LW picking this up as something they need to worry about would be a bit of an overstep.

      We have no reason to believe Pam needs coworkers to help her. She’s an adult and can take responsibility for that herself.

      Just make sure invites are very clear and ask for RSVPs in future.

    2. Anna*

      This seems to me to be WAY past leaping to conclusions, based on the information given. I am firmly on Pam’s side in how I would have interpreted that invitation, I definitely don’t think that what she did was bizarre, clueless, entitled, or any of the other words that other commenters have used to describe her, nor a red flag of desperation as you seem to be interpreting it. To me it just sounds like she has a close knit family that does activities together, the invitation sounded family-friendly, and she brought her family. Yes, she COULD have asked for clarification on how many guests are allowed and how many other participants were bringing guests, but that seems to be more the responsibility of the organizer to ask for RSVPs and head counts, rather than the responsibility of each guest.

  66. MCMonkeyBean*

    I’m usually on the other side of this issue, but I think the wording of the invitation definitely makes it sound like you can bring more than one guest–and if you make people pay for their guests then I’m not sure it’s reasonable to set a limit on them tbh. Especially if it’s somewhere like a restaurant where obviously her whole family could just show up to eat a meal if they wanted to.

    To me really the only odd one was the MIL–husband is obviously an expected guest, kids were explicitly name in the invitation as being welcome and I assume the nanny was brought to help watch the kids.

  67. SusieQQ*

    Definitely a social gaffe. The socially responsible thing would have been to contact the event organizer ahead of time and ask for guidance. (My husband’s work had a Christmas party one weekend that his MIL happened to be visiting, and he asked them ahead of time if it was okay to bring two guests.)

    This kind of smells like a violation of “use it, don’t abuse it.” If I were the OP, my takeaway would be that I need to be more clear about expectations for future events.

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      You’re making it seem like Pam was doing something shady to purposely bring more than she was supposed to. To me it just reads like she misinterpreted the invite.

  68. Head sheep counter*

    This is how you end up with plus – no one for company events or very very literal here is your ticket and one additional ticket for whatever person you’d like to bring.

    Its totally wild to me that the person giving the award would need an audience… if it was receiving an award… it would be quirky or possibly maybe sort of cute?? But in giving an award the focus should be on the awardee… not whatever unusual family dynamics you have. I think Pam has main character syndrome and I’d never have her present an award again.

  69. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    If you have a comms team/internal comms expert, and they’re competent, you can run invites by them in future if you want to ensure clarity.

    Good communications professionals are trained in understanding how people commonly misinterpret things and spotting possible points of confusion.

    I can see how the invite read to Pam as “plus one and your kids,” even though technically that isn’t what it says.

    People do say “plus ones” as a plural sometimes. (Which irritates me from a logical perspective but it does get used.)

    I’d introduced RSVPs if you need to know numbers.

    Also, I am confused by how the event was so small! Any chance Pam expected it to be way, way more people, including lots of other people’s kids?

  70. Jiminy Cricket*

    I’m looking forward to Pam’s letter.

    “I was recently tapped to present an award at social event at work. I like my coworkers and I was proud to share this with my husband. The invite explicitly included kids, so I figured it would be a family-friendly event. I didn’t want to be distracted by my kids, so my mother-in-law and nanny came to help. But it turns out we were the only family there and everybody looked at us funny! Should I say something to the organizers?”

    1. Jackie*

      Yes! I feel bad for poor Pan, her reasoning seems makes sense to me!
      My impression is the letter writer would prefer children not come unless it’s unavoidable, which would need to be worded very differently.

    2. Not my coffee*

      Dear Pam,

      You could say something to the organizers, but take into account what happened while you and your group were there. Were there enough seats? Did the kids behave? etc.

      Tell the organizers your interpretation of the invite. As an action plan, I would ask for explicit explanations prior to the event.

      Keep in mind, to some people what you’ve done is unforgivable.

      1. Jiminy Cricket*

        “Unforgivable” is a pretty strong word for … well, actually, for not much at all. Even the letter writer uses nothing stronger than the word “gaffe.” She doesn’t describe bad behavior or disruption. She says nothing about being short on seats. She doesn’t even mention discomfort.

  71. This Old House*

    While this could be a gaffe, there are so many things which could have led to it seeming like it would be fine – from the nature of the venue to the assumptions about how many family members other people were bringing – that it seems relatively harmless.

    I recently went to a work social event that was held at a large public place. I checked before about bringing my family, and it was fine, even though only one other person did. But when my son complained that he would be bored, I told him he could bring a friend, which I didn’t clear with anyone at work first. I suppose it would have been possible for this to be a gaffe, too. But it wasn’t, given the context, setting, group size, ability for a couple of elementary-school boys to entertain themselves independently. It was totally fine.

  72. fhqwhgads*

    I do sort of think this could be solved with rephrasing future invites, even though I don’t think most reasonable people would misinterpret the original wording. Still, this might have prevented confusion:
    “plus-ones are welcome, and need not be over 18, but please note you’ll be paying for your own guest.”

    This leaves open what I think was the original intention about mentioning kids – namely, your plus-one can be your kid. But removes that extra plural, which I assume was originally there because it was directed to a group of people. This still might leave poly folks needing to choose 1, but in an event this small, I don’t necessarily think that’s exclusionary. People with multiple partners pick one or don’t bring any. People with multiple kids bring one or don’t bring any. But given it sounds like a small group and most didn’t bring anybody, the key thing here is non-work people should not outnumber work people at a work thing. So plus-one = one is a fine starting point.

  73. Or your typical admin*

    I have 4 kids, and I’ve been Pam. When mine were young, there were several times we were invited to events and were told kids were invited, only to get there and find there were only one or two other children present. Then all of a sudden you become the “big family”. I learned to check in with other attendees and find out how many other kids were going. We’re friends with a lot of other large families, and all have experienced the same thing.

    I understand how Pam’s family could have been overwhelming, but I don’t blame her at all. If I had received the invitation I would have assumed it was an event for the whole family, and there would be multiple kids. It’s a case of differing expectations. The biggest suggestion I could give the lw is to check in with attendees on who they’re planning on bringing. Then you could go to Pam and mention there weren’t going to be other kids there.

  74. Ink*

    I wonder how well Pam fits into the office culture re: family? Do the other team members have kids, is Pam demographically different in some way that means she has MORE kids (older on a team of people just starting a family, religion that encourages a lot of kids, etc), is the willingness to bring kids to the event atypical for other reasons? I could see it partially coming off as weird if anyone else who COULD have brought kids would’ve topped out at one or two, or if kids-welcome seemed like the polite thing to offer but wasn’t going to be taken up by most of the team because they’d rather get a babysitter and use it as a semi-date night where at least the kids were out of their hair, even with the dynamics of a work event. The mother-in-law and nanny are just egregious, though, so… the rest doesn’t necessarily matter so much! A funny story to bring up a few years down the line in another job or at non-work social events, though.

  75. Ashley*

    To me it is very clear that nanny was there working (ie, on the clock). Yes she is an additional attendee but in reality her job was to ensure the kid attendees weren’t disruptive. Seems like the most responsible way to attend a work event that literally said “kids welcome.” Not sure why that detail would be off-putting.

  76. e271828*

    I am a bit boggled that no one at the workplace is on good enough terms to just ask Pam, in a good-natured way, why she brought her entire family.

  77. WellRed*

    Pam is clueless but hopefully won’t do it again and sounds like only harm was done to her own judgment. OP can be clearer next time when issuing invites. I’m just astounded that seven additional people actually attended! Who are all these people out there in the world who willingly (?) attend work events that are not theirs?

    1. amoeba*

      I’d happily attend my boyfriend’s work event, and if for some reason a good friend invited me to theirs, I’d also love to join! They seem to have nice colleagues, would be cool to see that part of their lives.
      Of course, if I were the only non-work person there, it could get boring (talking shop, etc.). But if everybody’s bringing people, it sounds good to me!

    2. umami*

      My husband! Every time I tell him I have a work event, he asks if it’s something he can go to, too. Man, I sometimes wish he could go instead of me lol. But he loves stuff like that, and loves seeing me in my work element, so they do exist!

  78. Not sure how to say it....*

    I’ve been watching this post all day. The comments and the moderation of said comments.

    I see a lot thing I would have removed…it’s definitely been interesting.

    1. BubbleTea*

      What is the point of this remark?

      Allison has said repeatedly and in the comment rules that have a link right above where you are commenting that it’s impossible for her to read every comment on the site and so if you see something that should be removed you should flag it.

  79. M*

    I’m trying to imagine this being less weird if every employee brought a toddler as a plus one. The whole vibe of this event seems strange to me… unofficial happy hour meets official work award ceremony meets work picnic vibes. I think this is 100% on OP for not having a clearer vision and communicating that.

    1. LW*

      OP here — there was a lot more info in the invite than just the one line I quoted. The invite in full read:

      Houseplant Therapist Social Hour
      Please join us at [City] Brewpub on [date] to honor Erin, who has now counseled more ficuses than any other houseplant therapist in the history of Potted Planters (over 500 trees!). We have the back room of City Brewpub from 5:30 – 9:00 PM, but please don’t feel you have to stay the full time. City Brewpub has a variety of dinner options, including vegan and hypoallergenic ones, and will accept cash or card. Plus-ones are welcome, including kids*, but please note you’ll be paying for your own guests. The menu is here: [link].

      *I threw this in partially because I wanted to clarify that a “brewpub” allowed kids and would serve them, partially because Erin is a single parent.

      There’s also obviously a lot of other context my team would have that I can’t write out in a forum. There are 12 houseplant therapists in our company, and 12 were invited. I asked City Brewpub if they could accommodate 20 ±5 guests in their back room on a Tuesday, and they were fine with that. I knew that Erin and Andy were both single parents, that Jim and Dwight were each married with no kids, and wasn’t sure about the rest. To be honest, I would’ve been fine with Pam bringing her husband and kids, but with her bringing *seven* people the proportions go so wonky that I’m rethinking the next event.

      1. umami*

        With the extra details, it actually reads as much more casual than I even originally thought, with no real limitation on how many guests would be allowed (back room set aside, long window of time, come and go as you please, plus ones welcome, including kids, just pay for your own guests). Maybe saying ‘You and a guest are welcome, and the venue is child-friendly if you elect to bring a child as your guest. Please note that your guest’s meal will not be covered.’ Would that be helpful?

      2. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        THANK YOU! This bugged me all yesterday and I kept hitting refresh this morning to see if there was any update. This is an entirely different scenario than I thought- the come and go, the potential for not having the family eat, etc. Though, since Pam HAD to be there (since she was presenting the award), it still seems weird she’d bring that many people (especially since she’d probably be obligated to stay for a certain amount of time).

        Also, I could use a Houseplant Therapist. My peace lilies are dramatic narcissists and probably could benefit from some therapy. Fortunately, the pothos are fine and there’s no hint of SAD with my Christmas cacti.

  80. Ginger snaps*

    For the LW looking to extend work travel – I would check what the industry/company norms are. My job involves international travel and we are very much expected not to include personal travel past a day or two (in Australia, there are tax laws about proportion of business travel vs personal that may see you having to pay part of the flights etc). I have known people to have to pay for most of the flights for this reason.
    I have also found it varies from office to office, my previous job it was the norm to be expected back to the office straight away (mainly because even though you have been travelling and still working, you need to get back and catch up on your regular work). It’s definitely part of the culture that is not great and results in burnout, but it’s good to be aware!

  81. SFW*

    In planning an employee holiday party at a company where we worried people would bring too many guests, I said significant others were welcome. That would be inclusive to polyamorous families… I feel like adding children is what possibly caused the confusion here? But hey, at least she paid for all of them.

    1. LW*

      OP here — I actually put in that line because the person receiving the award is a single parent, so it felt unfair to do an evening event *for her* if she couldn’t bring her son along. That said, I’m still trying to figure out a wording tweak that can accommodate the single parents on the team without ending up at another accidental Pam Fam reunion.

  82. WhatDidOPExpect*

    If you sent me an invitation worded like that I’d expect way more than 11 people to be attending (which means a larger group from one employee would blend in more) and assume it was a more casual, everyone is welcome event. I would also look askance at being asked to pay for my plus ones for any work event – if you don’t want to pay don’t invite them. However, once asked to do so (pay), any hesitance I had about asking anyone I wanted to avoid would definitely disappear. While I wouldn’t bring the same group she did, I might bring friends to drive me and, if they were already planning to do something with others I might say bring them along.

  83. SleepyHollowGirl*

    With the “including kids”, I might have concluded this was a whole-family event. The mother-in-law and nanny are weird, though.

  84. Not Working Today*

    The title for this is really misleading – “brought seven plus-one’s.” No, she brought her husband and children who were invited, and the nanny presumably to help with the children during the event. Yeah it’s weird her MIL came unless there was an explanation, but that’s a lot different than “brought seven plus-one’s.”

  85. Lkr209*

    Props to Allison for referencing Dundies, (the Dundie awards being played in my head while reading before she even mentioned it.)

  86. Raida*

    I would just chat to her casually about it – did your family enjoy the dinner?

    Because by chatting it *might* turn out that she said “We’re going to dinner kiddies” and the nanny and mother in law assumed the family was going out to dinner… and then would *you* want to be the woman telling your mother in law actually you weren’t invited…?
    Or she had plans with her son, and if he’s going well obviously I’m going, too.

    So don’t worry about the wording, be explicit when there’s a need such as table size limitations, let people enjoy bringing a guest to a work event, and just chat with Pam to find out if she saw the invite and invited everyone or it was more out of her hands.

  87. Boof*

    I mean, pam has 4 kids. You said folks could bring kids! So pam brought her kids + 3 people to wrangle them, and paid for them all! Just smile and acknowledge that’s probably the most effective way to include kids at a wirk event, and realize some folks have more tgan 2 kids? (Idk, seems smart to me to bring folks to watch kids; so don’t ok kids if you really just want a +1!)

  88. Single Noun*

    I am BAFFLED at the number of people who apparently think “plus-ones are welcome, including kids” means “select exactly one kid to bring with you, and no childcare to wrangle them while you’re onstage doing work”

  89. Jake*

    I’ve re-read the invite a few times now. I come away under the impression that multiple guests are welcome. Sure, 7 is excessive, but I absolutely do think this needs reworded on future invites because I think what she did is within the confines of what was written in the invite.

    One of the few times in the last decade that I have disagreed with Alison.

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