I’m getting stuck with extra work because I don’t have kids

A reader writes:

I’m just a little over one year into my job. My manager is great, my coworkers are fine, and the benefits are outstanding. The work-life balance is healthy, and we are encouraged to take our PTO and to have fulfilling lives outside of work. I’m generally happy here, and I like it as much as one can like a job.

The owners of the company take pride when employees get married, buy houses, and have kids. They say making big life changes like that means employees are happy, there’s a good life balance, and pay/benefits are good. I agree with all this, and I’m happy to be part of a company that cares about employees as people, not just what they accomplish during the workday.

However, I’m the youngest person at my company. I also don’t plan on ever having children. A good portion of employees who have joined the “three kids club” and it’s kind of a running joke in the company.

My team is only me, my manager, and a coworker, and this year both of them got pregnant and had back-to-back parental leaves. Out of the 15 months I’ve been here, six months have been holding down the fort during parental leaves. That’s not the problem, I’m glad we have a robust parental leave!

My issue is that it feels like I’m now being asked to handle more out-of-work-hours events, when before they weren’t my responsibility. We have three office locations, in three nearby- but-far-enough-away cities. Each of us on my team is located in one of the three offices, so we each handle events in our respective cities. When my manager was on leave, myself and my teammate both covered her city so that it would be equal and fair. However, I am closer to my manager’s city than my teammate is.

Now that my manager is back, I’m being asked to cover the events in her city because she can’t find childcare. It feels like her lack of childcare is being made my problem. I have a robust social life and have plans most days of the week, whether it’s a weekly obligation, or loose plans to grab dinner with a friend, or maybe I’m caring for a sick relative. It shouldn’t matter what I’m doing; my time outside of work is no less important than anyone else’s just because I don’t have children.

Before my manager had a child, this was not an issue. But it becoming the new norm is not sustainable for me. I like my job and this is not enough for me to leave over. However, I do want to make it clear to my manager that I don’t want to continue to have things pushed off onto me simply because I don’t have kids. But it’s also tough to say, “Hey, I know you can’t get childcare but I have a kickball league that needs me.”

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

{ 370 comments… read them below }

  1. Nicosloanica*

    You know it’s funny, I had heard about this issue and have always been concerned but to be honest, I have not run into this in my decade and a half of working (I am child-free). I wonder if it varies by field, perhaps particularly fields that require coverage or that have a lot of weekend and evening hours? (I work a regular 9-5 office job). Or perhaps it is regional – may be less common here on the East Coast where there always seems to be plenty of people who don’t have kids.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      My current job is pretty strictly 8-5 and it hasn’t been an issue, but I used to have a job that had long hours (6:30-7:30) and parents routinely tried to refuse to work either early or later shifts. The place was very clear in interviews that these weren’t optional because they didn’t want the same people getting stuck with them all the time, and also because they tended to have slightly different skill needs and they wanted people to cross-train. (I actually liked them because I could still get a lot of everyday things done either before or after my shift, but I don’t have kids and my parents were a lot younger then.)

      1. Your Mate in Oz*

        these weren’t optional because they didn’t want the same people getting stuck with them all the time

        The solution I’ve experienced is to move those things from “built into your salary” to explicitly paid. Which meant that everyone took a 20% salary cut, and those of us who were expected to work nights and weekends, or do callouts, got more than that back. I suspect there were harsh words in one workplace, but since I suggested that solution and everyone knew it mostly I got shunned by the people who had priorities outside work.

        But like many people, I work for money. More work = more money. It might be delayed “if you are acting manager you’re next in line to be promoted”, but that needs to happen quickly or I’ll be applying for manager roles elsewhere based on my acting manger experience here.

    2. Lady Ann*

      I would guess it varies a lot by industry and individual workplace. I have been told at various jobs that since I don’t have kids I have to work extra holidays, “volunteer” for events that are supposedly optional, and that I should be able to switch my schedule at the drop of the hat.

    3. TechWorker*

      To be totally honest the reason I expect I don’t run into this is that my industry is male dominated and the vast majority of people with kids have a partner who is the default for childcare and either works part time or not at all… and also to be fair evening work is not expected that often of anyone. But certainly don’t notice it falling more on those without kids.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I also work in a male-dominated industry and I haven’t been stuck with undesirable shifts or travel more often than anyone else, so far as I can tell. I don’t know how any of my coworkers divide their childcare responsibilities, but I’ve never been asked to cover their jobs outside of parental leave (which I think is fair, since they covered my job when I was out for a couple months after surgery).

    4. Antilles*

      If your job is entirely 9-5, that’s probably why you haven’t seen it. On the company side, if they’ve got set regular hours, they can easily make that a firm job condition; if you can’t work something approximating 9 to 5, you can’t work here. On the employee side, the normal daytime office hours have a lot of overlap with the hours of the usual childcare options (day care, elementary school, after-school programs, etc). So if you have a job that stays within the ‘normal’ business hours, it makes sense that you’ve seen it’s mostly a non-issue.

      But when it comes to evenings or weekends or holidays? That’s when it’s a lot easier for a company to end up sharing the extra burden unevenly based on who has kids that cannot be left alone. If you need someone to stay late one day, but Patty Parent has a hard requirement that “day care for my two-year old closes at 6:30 pm” and Sally Single is (perceived as) just going home to sit on the couch watching TV…well, you can guess who’s going to get more pressure to cover that extra time.

    5. Sally Rhubarb*

      When I worked in retail/direct customer service, it was always implied that I was obligated to cover shifts for people with kids or church obligations

      1. M*

        I used my willingness to work Sundays (unlike my church-going co-workers) to negotiate a better schedule (every Friday and Saturday off). That’s my suggestion when it’s possible- do it if you’re willing but get something you want in return.

        1. GlitterIsEverything*

          Yes, this! I would volunteer to work the holidays or weekends my kids were with their dad, in exchange for not working the ones they were home with me. Even before I had kids, I’d volunteer to work holidays so I’d get two days off in a row.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            When I was younger I loved working Christmas day. My family would celebrate on Christmas Eve, then I’d get time-and-a-half working with customers who were grateful we were open at all. Sure beat the post-present introvert meltdown we have every Christmas Day in my family.

        2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Yup. I stay local for holidays so I don’t need (or really even want) the usual days others want (in particular, Black Friday for me is a GREAT day to work and get caught up!), so therefore when I do ask for something else it is rarely denied. But this was my choice – and often I’d volunteer so there was coverage and people could either be home with kids or travel to family.

          Once WFH options were more flexible, this became less of an issue, as a lot of people in this boat were very willing to work those days (at least part of the day), they just didn’t want to be in office (either because there were kids at home/family visiting/or they were visiting family).

      2. Spencer Hastings*

        When it comes to church, I’m not surprised — the company has to provide a religious accommodation, if I understand correctly.

        1. SPZB*

          Reasonable accommodation, which means they can still deny it if they can show it places an undue burden on the company.

          Simply being a religious thing does not give the employee free reign to demand anything.

    6. Happy Pineapple*

      I’m an executive assistant on the East Coast in a 9-5 office job. This definitely happens in my world. Sometimes meetings are requested outside of normal business hours. If I decline with anything other than “kid stuff” as a reason, it’s almost always not seen as a valid excuse. They’ll ask for vacation plans to be cancelled or doctor appointments to be moved. I hold firm on this point, but I don’t always win the battle. Parents are also given a lot more leeway to step away during the workday to attend informal school events (things like tea parties and ice cream socials) for their kids whereas employees without children are not given the same flexibility.

      1. Deborah*

        OMG every parent knows about those informal school things. Especially if your kid is winning an award, you want to be there. And they give you less than a week’s notice every time.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Which is perfectly fine, but don’t expect me to cancel my doctor’s appointments if you get to take off for Johnny’s ice cream social at school. They are at LEAST equally important.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            But that highlights Alison’s point – if you and Deborah worked together, it wouldn’t be *Deborah’s* fault you were pressured to cancel your stuff, it would be your *employer/boss* pressuring you, failing to plan for adequate coverage for the department workload.

            The pressure may be coming indirectly through your co-workers because the employer isn’t giving them any alternatives for coverage besides you, but it’s the employer causing this issue.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              While the employer is ultimately responsible for handling this fairly, I do think coworkers are responsible for their own behavior too.

              If pressure is coming directly from the boss, then only the boss is to blame. But if pressure is coming from both the boss and the parent-coworker, then parent-coworker takes on some of the blame.

          2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            ANYONE’S medical appointment is more important than Johnny’s ice cream social! Yes, it sucks to be unable to attend every school event with your kid, but expecting people to put their own health care on hold so that you can go cheer on Johnny at his softball game or attend the class ice cream party is ludicrous. Health care should NOT be equated with a fun social or sporting event!

            1. ImTired*

              But again, this isn’t the parent’s fault. It is the employer’s fault. Why do you phrase this as scolding parents as opposed to blaming employers? Parents don’t decide that their co-worker’s medical appointments aren’t important. Blaming parents places blame in the wrong place.

              1. goducks*

                Agreed. Both are important. Push comes to shove, either person might leave over being denied the ability to attend their thing.

              2. Becca*

                It’s mainly the school’s fault for giving so little notice that the parent is having to scramble to get out of work rather than planning it in like other appointments (assuming they have a reasonable amount of PTO and a team with enough coverage that people can normally take PTO without it being a big drama – if they don’t have either of those then it is the company’s fault.

        2. GlitterIsEverything*

          I think I only got to go to maybe 3-4 of those total while my 2 kids were in school. Working in direct patient care, flexibility like that isn’t a thing.

        3. Brooklyn*

          As people have pointed out all over the place, the issue is not the informal school events and the short notice. It’s that if the company can accommodate last minute absences, it should be able to accommodate them for all employees. Your employer should not be in the business of deciding whose important events are “important” enough and whose aren’t.

          It’s great that you’d like to be there for your child’s events. I do too. But the idea that a social event for your child is somehow more important than a social event for your coworker is very, very subjective – you don’t want your employer making that call because when a child-free director comes on board, you don’t want the other side of that coin. If flexibility is possible, it should be extended to all people.

    7. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

      Definitely interesting, as I have had mostly 8-5 office jobs since 2003, always on the East Coast until last year when I moved across the country. This issue came up for me immediately 2003-2004, because it was a small department, just me and manager (who discovered the day before I was interviewed that she was pregnant with her second child). The whole building was the larger company, but our office was a subset with remote management. I went into it eyes open that clearly accommodations would have to be made, and I would have to cover for things unexpectedly, but it definitely surprised me how much came up even with her husband and all 4 grands around to cover things with baby and toddler. Covering for parents in office jobs has been standard for me in greater Boston and in the DC area, and oddly has not come into play at. all. since I moved away, even though I have younger coworkers again now. I always assumed I would get my “turn,” but I haven’t had children and that window is closing.

      However, as time goes on and especially seeing how hard friends and family had it during stay-at-home work and school, I definitely don’t see it as a employees-only issue. Our whole working culture needs better baseline policies. We all have unexpected things come up in our lives. (I needed new brakes last week, in a fairly emergency manner.) And as much as LW extols the benefits of their office and the robust parental leave, the company doesn’t really seem to accommodate appropriate staffing for the amount of work that needs to continue unabated while some staff are taking their very rightful leave periods. I hope LW has been able to speak to management and contributed to making things more equitable for themselves and colleagues.

      1. Highroyds*

        And as much as LW extols the benefits of their office and the robust parental leave, the company doesn’t really seem to accommodate appropriate staffing for the amount of work that needs to continue unabated while some staff are taking their very rightful leave periods.

        That’s a curious point! Considering LW is only covering a fraction of parental leave, I’m not sure what is done for the rest of it.

      2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        It’s so true: child and childcare-related issues are only one (highly visible) category of work-life issues workplaces really need to be more flexible about. I’m the only person on my 5-person team with kids at home, but in the last year EVERYONE has needed time off to deal with major personal issues: pregnancy complications, medical conditions, a partner undergoing brain surgery, and a grandparent taking time to cover childcare gaps for their grandchildren. It’s not ideal and it keeps my boss up at night, but it is what it is when you work with live humans instead of robots.

    8. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Being in the northeast I’ve definitely seen it. I’ve seen it less in the last five years, the same way I’ve been seeing more companies offer pet insurance as a benefit – expectations are changing as millenials have aged into a different style of adulthood and advocated for themselves. But I still see it in subtle ways. Parents having more flexible schedules (8-4 vs 9-5 in an office without flex time, for instance), using WFH more than intended in various set ups, and getting dinged for it less, volunteering for less extra work when it’s typically expected of others, etc. These things are different than a blatant “you don’t have kids so you must always work the extra events”, and I agree the ratios of non-parents here are higher so there’s more success pushing back, but I wouldn’t call it a non-issue.

    9. Lea*

      It’s not something that comes up much for because we are later in our careers so parents maybe have teenage or grown kids who don’t need as much supervision

      I suspect if you’re in a group with a lot of small kids it comes up more

    10. RIP Pillowfort*

      If your job is entirely 9-5 and has no travel for conferences/job sites/events, that’s probably why.

      But I also think the workplace has a lot to do with the attitude. I’ve worked places that were flexible with everyone, only flexible with parents, and flexible with no-one. Obviously the last two are the most difficult attitudes to deal with as an employee.

      Where I work now the managers try to be flexible with everyone and it makes a big difference because we have a mix of parents and non-parents in our office.

    11. Coin Purse*

      I was over 5 decades in the work force and it happened to me constantly, in 2 different careers. It was far worse in nursing though.

    12. Chirpy*

      The job that was worst about this for me was a regular office job (8-5, a handful of evening/weekend special events a year). The parents in the office wouldn’t even stay until 5 pm, leaving me alone. If there was a conflict between me needing time off/leaving early, they always got first priority, and they all assumed that I was always available to work all of those weekend/evening events without asking.

    13. Ellis Bell*

      It was definitely more of an issue when I worked in a “round the clock” field than when I’ve worked in places with set working hours. It’s called daycare, not nightcare.

    14. Serious silly putty*

      (I haven’t real all the comments, so sorry if this has already been addressed.)
      Can you speak the the gender breakdown in your field? Women bear the brunt of childcare responsibilities, so while I think that working a regular 9-5 is the main reason this hasn’t been an issue, I can also imagine it coming up less in a male-dominated space. (Ie: Fewer people needing this accommodation, more people to pick up the slack of those who do need, it AND more pressure on women to “not” need it to stay competitive with their male counterparts.)

      Speaking for myself: I work in a nonprofit and get paid way less than my tech husband. Financially we could have gotten by with me staying at home (though that’s never what I wanted), so I feel more pressure to “make” my job work, or bear a higher cost of childcare duties when it doesn’t. Realistically when kiddo is out sick we split the sick time almost 50-50. But his job is almost all asynchronous and easy to flex, whereas I have teaching responsibilities so I need someone to cover for me sometimes. And if I have to work a late event, I can trust him to handle it… BUT I also know that kiddo and husband both thrive on routine, so I avoid these evening/weekend programs when I can, for their sake. But if the tables were flipped, I think kiddo and I would be fine with more solo nights because I’m used to holding the larger mental load of parenting.

    15. A person*

      Pretty sure it’s coverage style jobs with odd hours that are affected the most. I’ve experienced this consistently in my 16 years in the workforce.

  2. MigraineMonth*

    Once more for the people in the back:

    “Policies and practices that only consider the needs of parents while leaving everyone else behind only serve to pit parents and nonparents against each other, which conveniently shifts attention away from employers’ responsibility”

      1. Donn*

        Also applicable when someone is on extended leave, and the employer covers the absence by dumping on other employees for months with no end in sight.

        1. kiki*

          Yes, I think bare-bones/ LEAN staffing is also to blame for a lot of these situations. Staff levels should be kept at a level that accounts for folks needing to take time away/ have more going on in their personal lives/etc. When staffing is calculated expecting that everyone is able to do 100% all the time, you run into situations where there is too much to do and not enough people quite a lot of the time.

          1. Tabihabibi*

            Indeed. Maybe the company needs an additional role or to modify another role to cover some events in Manager City. I work in a lean staffing environment and assessed that in 2+ years there have been 0 days when every position on the books was filled and no one was on leave. It’s like we’re humans or something.

        2. iglwif*


          At the same time, the brevity of maternity/parental leave in the US is part of what makes it so hard to cover. I was a hiring manager when Canada made the shift from ~6 months to ~12 months of available leave, and it immediately got WAY easier to hire mat leave replacements — more people wanted a 12-month contract than a 6-month one. I’m not surprised that US employers find it difficult to hire replacements for leaves lasting less than 3 months, and instead shrug their shoulders and make the remaining employees do more work.

          1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            Oh I think this is spot on. The short maternity/paternity leave really incentivizes companies NOT to hire temporary help. Like, it is too short for someone to learn a complicated role, they only find subpar options, so then why not just divvy up the work for the few months the person in out? Thus leading to a cycle like the LW is dealing with where multiple leaves compound and they REALLY could use an extra person.

            1. pope suburban*

              I agree. One of my best assignments when I was temping was maternity leave coverage for a company that offered more than the standard. The company took care of their people, and included me in their holiday celebrations even though they didn’t have to- they gave out gift cards for Thanksgiving, and poinsettia plants at Christmas, and I was part of both. That attitude of taking care of people and being gracious is, I think, *why* they got coverage instead of fobbing it all off on other workers. I wish working culture in the US was more like that, because it would lead to better outcomes for all parties involved. This no leave, lean staffing, we’ll just overwork people nonsense is terrible for people and bad for business to boot.

          2. kiki*

            Yes, even beyond just maternity leaves, the expectation of how long somebody will ever be away from work in the US is relatively short. That means most companies don’t set up much infrastructure to handle folks being away because the expectation is that it will generally be for just a few weeks or months, tops.

            1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              Which seems like even more reason that they need to increase the number of regular staff so that there are enough people to pick up the slack for these relatively short leaves. But that’s not how most companies see things, unfortunately.

        3. Green Goose*

          Yes! I was out for six months on maternity leave and there was time sensitive work that HAD to be done while I was out since I was only returning six weeks before our busy season. Well… they let six months of work pile up and then expected me to do it all when I got back. It was horrific. My baby was not sleeping through the night and then I was told, on my first day back, that I needed to “hit the ground running” which is such a terrible thing so say to someone who is struggling to reorient to a new normal.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            A 6-month absence is the kind of thing temps are ideal for. But they seem to be very rare these days.
            I remember last century, all sorts of people temped, they were often offered the job if the new mother decided to stay at home, or if the person on prolonged sick leave ended up retiring, and they rarely took up the offer because they actually liked temping, there was no shortage of temping opportunities, so for someone who liked new challenges, it was fine.

    1. Ominous Adversary*

      100% true, but let’s also acknowledge that it’s not really “parents” we’re talking about here most of the time, it’s mothers.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        It’s not the employer’s responsibility, though, or their business, to manage employee’s parenting balance at home.

        1. badger*

          true, but a lot of companies tend to be more willing to accommodate moms than dads – e.g., FMLA should be the same for both for a newborn but some companies’ policies (written OR informal) will say 12 weeks of maternity leave and 2 weeks of paternity leave. Funnily enough, that seems to be the case even if the baby is adopted rather than the mom giving birth to it, even though “recovery from birth” is ostensibly the reason for the disparity. Or, they’ll say “we offer paid parental leave” while leaving out that they only offer it via short-term disability for a parent who gives birth, meaning other parents (including adoptive parents) don’t get paid parental leave.

          Sometimes it’s explicit, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes bosses just assume dads aren’t going to be providing childcare and schedule accordingly. I’ve seen this whole scenario play out for fathers because others treated them the same as they treat women who don’t have kids, and for the same reason – “you don’t have the same responsibilities.” They may not even realize they’re doing it.

          So the extent it’s the employer’s responsibility, it is their responsibility to make policies and accommodations uniform wherever possible.

          1. Not Evil HR Lady*

            Which is a violation of FMLA for non-birth parents if the employee qualifies for FMLA and works for a qualifying employer. Not allowing those parents to take leave when the birth parents are able to might potentially be viewed as FMLA interference.

            I think it’s also total crap that some parents are forced to share total FMLA hours in a 12-month period for birth or adoption if they have the same employer. That’s not actually legal either. If both parents are eligible for FMLA and it’s a qualifying employer, they are both deserving of up to 12 weeks/480 hours of protected leave. SEPARATELY.

            1. Shirley You’re Joking*

              Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the FMLA actually addresses parents who work for the same employer and states that the employer can limit the two parents to one bucket of 12 weeks of job-protected leave.

              Of course, employers can be more generous than the minimum requirements dictated by the FMLA.

                1. not-my-usual-name*

                  When I was pregnant, my partner also worked for the same company. Someone he knew in HR recommended that we think about getting married as we would save on health insurance. When he told me, I told him to confirm with her that we’d then have to share HMLA leave, RIGHT?? He never got an answer from her. Knowing my company, it’s guaranteed that we’d have to share the leave. They wouldn’t have given anything that wasn’t mandated by law. Right now there’s push for the company to provide at some paid family leave across all US employees. They’re headquartered in California which has a government program in place for family leave, but employees elsewhere can’t take advantage of that program.

          2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            This was not the case when we adopted our son (he’s ten now, so policies may have changed since then). Neither my workplace nor my wife’s (we’re both women) offered maternity leave for adoption – mine offered the same two weeks they did for fathers, hers offered nothing. In my own experience the “recovery from birth” fiction using short-term disability is far more common, acting as though somehow there will be childcare available from birth for families without a birthing parent.

        2. Ominous Adversary*

          It is absolutely the employer’s responsibility not to put mothers on a “mommy track”, or to assume that being a mother means they are automatically subpar employees (especially when fathers are rewarded or seen as more responsible because they’re “family men” now).

          Surely we are not pretending that an employer’s actions have no impact on how employees manage their parenting balance at home.

          1. TeaCoziesRUs*

            The last job I had – and first job I worked after my kids were born – was part-time in a small, family-run chiropractor’s office. My husband is active-duty military, and at that job was frequently out of town. My kids were young enough to be in daycare, but old enough that it was pre-school rather than diapers. I was also recovering from a diagnosis in which my spoons were… halved? (See spoon theory.) I took the job because the chiro was my friend and they desperately needed help. I lasted 4 months before I had to quit. I figured out that I couldn’t manage my kids, the house, my diagnosis, AND a job. I thought I could once they were in school… turns out I was wrong.

            When I gave my notice the first thing the chiro said was, “This is why I shouldn’t hire moms. I should know better.”

            The chiro? She was also a mom.

            1. TeaCoziesRUs*

              BTW, when he is home, hubby easily takes half of the household responsibilities and is an EXCELLENT dad and husband. But I agree with a commenter above that his job felt more important than mine (literally coordinating life-saving efforts, not to mention 85% of our family income), so I was who was called when a kid was sick. I wasn’t putting his job on the line when I was wanting to dip a toe back into the work world – home remained MY top priority.

              I also have zero judgment for anyone who makes different decisions than I do or whose life isn’t the same pattern as mine. You do you! I just wanted to cut down on some easy “what about”s. :)

        3. Sara H*

          You do understand that portions of being a parent are not “optional” or just about balance, right? Like once you are a parent you can’t just opt-out of their basic care. Also I hope this goes without saying, but for many many women in multiple states, being a mother and or needing maternity leave is also not always optional.

        4. ferrina*

          It’s not as simple as saying “Hey, father of the child, do your share!”
          Trust me, I tried that. Before we had kids, the guy had said and done all the right things to make me think he’d do his share. But after we had kids, it was amazing how he couldn’t flex his work time at all. How he always had an important meeting on the day that the kid was sick. How he forgot he said he was going to take the kid to the doctor’s appointment. How he needed to socialize at that work event or else he’d lose his career. If I didn’t pick up the slack, it didn’t get done. Needless to say, we’re divorced.

          That’s not to say that it’s his employer’s fault. But they didn’t make it easier. Lack of flex time meant that parenting fell onto the person who was willing to take the career hit. Same with after-hours work events; it became an issue where he didn’t want to get daddy-tracked and I was already mommy-tracked (by dint of being a woman who had a kid). Lack of flexibility in work location meant we always had to factor in his hour-long commute.

          Policies that help parents (without being just for parents) often help everyone. Any caregiver benefits from flexible working location and flexible hours. Anyone who wants to leave a bit early so they can meet with a friend benefits from that.

          1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            A former coworker told me about how her SIL, when he had to take a day for emergency childcare, was berated by his boss: “Don’t you have a wife?” Meanwhile his wife worked direct care, he worked and office job! :( (My coworker ended up being the backup instead to watch her grandchild, but she was INCENSED at her SIL’s boss!)

          2. Rebecca*

            I have a friend whose husband took paternity leave after the birth of their second child. During their divorce, he accused her of stalling his career by expecting him to take it.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      10000%. It reminds me of last week’s letter where the LW got a big raise and then the boss told everyone else that meant no one else could get a raise. So their coworkers all ganged up on the LW rather than directing their anger at the boss/company, where it belonged.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Oh my god, I missed this letter somehow. What an absolutely appalling situation. I hope OP gives us an update in the future. I’m rooting for them, but wow I just do not see how they can continue working for Mo.

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

      Exactly, employers should certainly be accomodating to employees, regardless if they are parents or not.
      This reminds me of a situation that happened at my old job. I worked as a customer service agent at a call center. we had originally been open 6 am to 1 am. But a new company took over and changed our closing time to 11 pm. Along with some other things, they shifted operations around and to be “fair” they gave people with seniority first pick, which meant a lot of people who had been on a day shift got moved to a night shift. There was one guy who was a single dad. He was an excellent rep. Just the type of person you would want. He had been working until 3:30. But since he had been at the company for a year he was automatically moved to the later shift. He told management that he has to keep his hours because he has young kids and has no one to be home with them. He would literally only see the kids for an hour in the morning with the shift they wanted him to go to. They would not allow him to ask if anyone else wanted to shift. He walked.

    4. demmzzz*

      Yes so much. We are required to have office coverage until 6 or 7, which is usually handled by one team that I’m not on. I think everyone except one of them is a parent. If they cannot do their late shift, they send a coverage request to everyone in the office, not just the people without kids. I’ve taken coverage shifts when I could, other people have as well. I don’t remember this ever being an issue because the pool is wide enough that usually someone is able to do it. There’s no presumption that parents are always busy and committed, while non-parents have nothing but free time.

  3. CommanderBanana*

    I had exactly this problem at one of my previous jobs. My travel went from one program every 5-6 weeks to running programs 2-3 weeks a month, all requiring travel, on top of my regular workload. Every time I raised it with my manager (who had 2 children while I was there) or my department director (also had 2 children) I was told that it was just “temporary,” because my coworkers were on and off maternity leave or didn’t want to travel when they had infants/toddlers.

    Totally understandable, but she refused to ask anyone else to staff events or to redistribute the workload so I wasn’t traveling for every single event while simultaneously trying to coordinate other events.

    This went on for nearly 3 years and I finally quit.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        And of course, none of this was acknowledged with $$ or advancement because it was “temporary”!

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Well, of course they were *shocked*, just *shocked!* /sarcasm

        The woman who was promoted to be my manager caused 300% turnover in the 2 years after she was promoted. As in, 100% of the department (except me, but then also me) quit rather than continue working with her. Last I heard, she’d been laterally moved so that she no longer has direct reports.

        Also, their Glassdoor reviews are universally dismal.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          As in, 100% of the department (except me, but then also me) quit rather than continue working with her – THREE TIMES. So, she caused 100% of a department to turn over three times before the association was finally like, hur dur durrr, maybe she’s the problem here? And not the…12 people who left rather than work with her?

        2. demmzzz*

          I know Alison has talked about this before, but I will never, ever, understand why companies bend over backwards to keep managers who so clearly cause their employees to quit in droves. How is this beneficial to the company in any way? A friend of mine used to work for an organization where a new manager basically caused a mass exodus of talented individuals, some of whom had been there for decades. She’s still there, as far as I know. I get there are some places, like the federal government, where firing a manager can be challenging, but I see this all over the map.

  4. TootsNYC*

    when my first kid was a baby, I had coworkers who were single. We were talking about the importance of work-life balance, and she said that she resented our culture’s (and frequent accommodating of parents, and even married people, at the expense of single people. (especially because our industry often had late nights during crunch times)

    “How am I going to meet someone and have a baby, if I’m working all the time? I can’t create a personal life for myself without TIME.”
    And of course, even without a partner and kids, she is no less a person than someone like me, and she deserves to have her personal time to spend the way she wants.

    I’ve always remembered that. I even built in freelancer money to my budget because one of my reports was a parent and would ask for vacation at all the school breaks, and then if the single person on my team wanted that time off, he was stuck. So I built it into the budget and built a wide field of freelancers so that if he wanted that time, I could accommodate him.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Wow! That is very insightful.

      Not every single, child-free is necessarily looking for a partner to have kids with, but everyone deserves a PERSONAL life of their own choosing.

    2. Hanani*

      You sound like a thoughtful, excellent manager.

      What a great way for a company to support all its employees: generous parental leave, and budget to hire additional help to fill in during said parental leave.

    3. MountainAir*

      This is such a great approach and important perspective to hold. The bottom line is that neither OP nor their coworkers are in the wrong here*. It’s not wrong that OP’s colleagues have less flexibility outside the workday because they have young kids. It’s also not wrong that OP is frustrated that their own perceived flexibility is being way overtapped, and she’s being used to carry the extra load and losing out on her personal life as a result! OP deserves that time as much as anyone.

      So I totally agree — this feels like a situation you absolutely have to budget and plan for as an employer who wants to be a sustainable place for people to work. Freelancer network? Fantastic solution. If OP didn’t mind some (maybe not all) of the extra work, it would also make sense to offer a raise or bonus in recognition of the additional work they’re doing, so that it at least wasn’t going unrewarded. Temps could be on the table too. There are potential solutions, it just requires the employer to acknowledge it in the budget and stop asking people to go above and beyond as a matter of routine so they don’t have to deal with it.

      *I do throw a little bit of sideeye at OP’s manager, who should be more conscientious of the way burdens are being shifted to OP. I say that as someone who has actually been the manager with an infant who has had to shift some travel responsibilities off their plate to supervisees who I normally would have traveled alongside or taken the place of. In those cases we had a lot of explicit conversations about that change and comp time and other perks were offered for taking on that additional work.

  5. Person from the Resume*

    I just want to say that I view my commitment to my evening social sports league as pretty firm. I paid money to play, and most importantly my teammates are counting on me. Often they’ll need to find a sub if I can’t make it. Just as firm as prepurchased tickets for a non-repeating concert or event.

    I’m much more likely to be willing to miss my workout or plans for a weekly/monthly scheduled comedy or storytelling show.

    I am unlikely to flake out on plans with friends too, but with adequate notice of an after work event I probably would have made plans yet so that’s not a problem.

    Overall this sucks and Alison’s suggestions are good and she’s so right that it’s your company’s issue to resolve (that your boss is no longer able to cover the after work events in her town) but right now all the burden is on you.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      This is a good point. For some instances, asking a coworker to the shoulder the burden has a financial cost!

      1. Jessica*

        True, but this also makes me think of the awful boss who thought somebody’s concert tickets were more important than his MVP employee’s college graduation. And the guy whose boss wouldn’t let him take a vacation day for some videogaming thing. Some events in some people’s lives may be more mainstream and relatable than others, but everyone should get to decide what’s most important to them, not have some manager up in their business trying to dictate whether your sports league does or doesn’t outweigh my theater tickets. Just staff your business adequately already!

        1. DJ Hymnotic*

          That concert tickets > college graduation manager is an AAM All-Time Classic, in terms of both showing that some managers have no business managing and that expecting certain employees to pull the weight of others into perpetuity is just not sustainable.

          (At least in my department, the issue at hand isn’t parental leave so much as it is military leave. My employer loves to advertise itself as military- and veteran-friendly, and at least in my department the way that plays out is not providing any additional staffing when someone goes out on orders. The rest of us simply have to do more with less. One time, that happened at the same time another person on my team relocated out of state, and even though both those absences were known *months* in advance, my employer’s “plan” was to expect three people to do the work of five. Morale predictably tanked.)

          1. Cru me a river*

            What do you expect them to do when someone in the military goes out in orders? Hire a long-term replacement while still paying the military person? Businesses aren’t money pits that can always afford to do that.

            They are doing exactly what they should — spreading the work around everyone, not just single people.

            1. DJ Hymnotic*

              I work in healthcare and part of our job is providing 24/7/365 coverage for our worksites, so…yes, I think being staffed at a minimally adequate level is something I should expect of my employer.

            2. STLBlues*

              Yes. They should hire a long-term replacement while hiring the military person.

              European businesses have figured that out with maternity leave for literal decades, and yet no one decides that European businesses are all “money pits.”

              It’s treating people decently.

            3. Beth*

              I mean, yes, I do expect that businesses will staff enough that having one (1) person out will not bring them below minimum staffing levels.

              Even if military leave wasn’t a thing, people are out all the time. My current company is like 2o people, and even then, it’s rare to have absolutely everyone in office. Most days, at least 1 person is on vacation or sick or dealing with a life thing (childcare, moving, a sick pet, a car accident, etc). People being out of office is a normal part of employing humans instead of robots, and companies absolutely do need to staff for it.

    2. Don't Be Longsuffering*

      I would change my thinking on the kickball from my team needs me to I will be exercising to stay healthy, or simply I have a commitment. Be less pliable.

  6. HonorBox*

    I think the thing that complicates this situation even more than just the parent/non-parent issue is the expectation that the LW is going to cover events in a community that they need to travel to. This isn’t as simple as hanging out a couple extra hours at the office for an event (which I know is probably simplifying what these events are). This is driving to the other city, working those extra hours at that event and then presumably driving home immediately following. It sounds like the business has set up this department for coverage in the communities they serve and when someone is having to travel to another community, it should be an exception versus the rule. That’s part of the reason you’re in three different places. The additional time in the car is a lot, and presumably, there’s work that could be done in the community LW is in during the hours they’re going to the events, too.

    The company is promoting work/life balance, but this additional work is cutting into that balance for the LW in a way that goes well beyond the hours for the events they’re covering.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      The company is judge and jury on the term “life.” Well, management is.
      The irony of the people without kids and spouses tend to be the ones getting screwed regularly.
      I wonder if manager would be so accommodating if she didn’t have kids. Because I see her tunnel vision. Everything through the lens of her own experience. When she didn’t have kids, she did the trips. Did she empathize/work with people who did not have her flexibilty?
      If she were my friend and told me how she can’t do these events anymore because she had kids, I’d flat out ask her this. Ask my friends, they will tell you. Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

  7. The Rural Juror*

    I don’t have kids, but I do have a pet that depends on me. My typical work schedule allows for me to be back home in enough time to let her out and fulfill her bio needs. But when people ask me to “help out” outside of the typical hours, I need to be able to plan. I’m not hiring a dog walker at my own expense, so luckily I’m usually able to incorporate remote work to accommodate my and her needs.

    I’ve had a few coworkers act like I was asking for the moon when I said I couldn’t work past a certain point. I may not have a human child to take care of, but I do have a life and responsibilities outside of work! Those coworkers can kick rocks! (they are rare, thank goodness)

    1. BubbleTea*

      I have a child and a dog. The child is much easier to find care for. Neither of my parents can have the dog overnight. My specific dog is much less amenable to strange babysitters than my specific child (this is obviously very much YMMV). I recently was told that a programme I want to be accepted onto now includes at least one, possibly two overnight stays. I was sort of astonished by how casually they mentioned it, like that wasn’t a massive deal to just drop on people a few weeks in advance.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I was recently asked to do a training at another of our locations in a city about 3 hours away by car. They wouldn’t let me stay overnight in a hotel, where I could have deposited my dog while I went to do the training (which totally could have been 2 hours on Day 1 afternoon and 2 hours on Day 2 morning). The person trying to schedule it had a hard time understanding why being in the car for 6-7 hours on top of 5 hours in that office wasn’t doable without getting a room for the night.

        1. Green Goose*

          Ugh! Did they end up booking you a room? I’m potentially going to a conference to present for an organization that I volunteer at but they said they will only pay travel, not accommodations so I’m going to have quite a day of flights and I know they want to save money but how great will I be (or even look) after flights and taxiing to the convention center? Shudder.

  8. Anon for This*

    I agree – if it isn’t your job, the fact that the person who IS responsible has kids doesn’t change that. I agree with Alison that you need to be clear to your manager that you can’t do this. But I recommend you also start looking for another job – since the person dumping on you is your manager they will expect you to do this, and will tag you as “not a team player” if you don’t.

    A former employee of mine ran into a similar situation when I moved on – my replacement expected her to stay late to handle her colleagues’ unfinished work because she didn’t have children. I encouraged her to get a dog (which she had been thinking about) so that she could respond to such requests with her own sorry, I can’t stay, I have to get home to let the dog out. It worked. (and the dog is a real sweetheart!)

    1. Chief Bottle Washer*

      I had a colleague with a fake dog for this very purpose. Sorry, need to get home to let Daisy out. The boss didn’t know Daisy was fake, but the rest of us did.

      1. StarTrek Nutcase*

        I had a fake kid at a university I worked at. When I started, the parents were given lots of leeway at the expense of no parents. It was frustrating fighting to get equal treatment. So when I move across campus to a totally unrelated department, I made up a kid but shared only basics (wasn’t a big sharer about anything anyway). It made my life so easy for 5+ years. My next move on campus I didn’t have a fake kid cause I’d finally developed enough of a backbone that I wouldn’t accept unequal treatment any longer.

        1. Not Me*

          Lol – that is genius! I hate lying to bosses and coworkers, but I also hate them taking advantage of my honest nature and kindness more. They don’t lose any sleep over it, so why do I?

  9. goducks*

    Before I had kids my work dominated my life, and I found myself working long hours and covering for people like the LW is covering. Once I had kids, I started enforcing boundaries out of necessity, but never mentioning it was because of my kids. I realized that I almost certainly could have enforced those same boundaries all along. I mentioned this to friends without kids and they started trying to enforce better boundaries and it worked for them, too. It was like we’d all convinced ourselves that without kids we had no right to say no to these types of requests, when the reality was our employers didn’t expect us to just pick up the slack because of our parental status, it was all in our heads. We thought that if we were asked to cover and we didn’t have a “good enough” reason, it would be bad, and that any reason shy of kids was probably not a good enough reason.
    YMMV, but something for people to consider.

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

      There are plenty of letters in the archives where people were told that because they don’t have kids they needed to work (or not take PTO or whatever).

    2. Lily Potter*

      Boundary enforcement works as long as everyone sometimes take one for the team and stays late – parents and non-parents alike.

      goducks, you were smart not to mention your kids. Everyone knew the reason for your sudden boundary enforcement, but it was good to not “rub it in”. I worked with someone who, after having her first child, was out the door on the dot every day at 5 pm with a sing-songy “Gotta go! Mommy hours!” The rest of the office was, not say the least, not impressed.

      1. Yikes on Bikes*

        OMG I think I worked in the same office. “Mommy hours” were the exact words this woman used (massive eye roll)

        1. Cru me a river*

          Parental status is not a protected class in most places. All of this is a good reason not to hire parents (men and women alike to be sure) or to set expectations that “this is not a 9-5 job” early on, so that parents of toddlers self-select out.

          1. An Australian In London*

            While parental status is not a protected class in the USA, sex (gender) certainly is, and I suspect these requirements are falling differently on childfree women vs. childfree men.

    3. B*

      This is a very astute observation, although not a panacea to every situation obviously.

      I have kids now and I firmly say “no” to a number of things that I would have acquiesced to before. The reason is my own boundaries are clearer in my mind than they were before. If I need to be there for my kids, that’s non-negotiable, whatever the consequences to me and whatever the inconvenience to someone else. And now it does make me wonder if I should have been more forceful in setting personal boundaries before.

      Of course the reason I do it now, and didn’t then, is because the boundary really is non-negotiable. There are days when, if I don’t leave work at 5, there will be nobody to pick up my kid at daycare. There is literally nothing my job could do to me that would be worse.

    4. Ann*

      Very good point, definitely seeing more enforcement of boundaries from younger employees. It doesn’t always prevent burnout, but it’s a good hedge against it. And I’d rather be told up front “no, I can’t do this” than have someone take on a job they can’t do.

    5. ina*

      This reminds me of a woman I worked with when I was fresh out of college and eager to make an impression. I would take on a lot of work and stay late, come in on weekends, and one weekend, we bumped into each other and she kind of…laid into me about how I should shouldn’t do this because people will ‘expect you to be Wonder Woman all the time, but there’s going to be a day or a week or years when you can’t stay until 9pm or work 7 days a week and that’s the day you go from Wonder Woman to just being a woman.’

      Her advice was coming from a different place, slightly, but the general idea of saying “no” when you have a full plate and “I will get to that on Monday” when someone gives you something at 4:30 on a Friday applies. We think people will react more negatively to ‘no’ than is reality.

    6. GreyjoyGardens*

      I think it helps that it’s not 2010 anymore, and (most) employees can’t be as easily or credibly threatened with “we’ll just fire you and get someone else, there’s a line out the door waiting for your job.” It’s easier to hold boundaries when you have some kind of negotiating power and the employer doesn’t hold all the cards.

      1. goducks*

        FWIW, my kids were born in the mid 2000s and are teens now, one’s almost out of the house! I was able to push back even then, as were my kid-free friends. Even during the recession in 2008. Not all the time, but a lot more than we’d thought we could! Some of it was surely the gendered socialization that girls need to be amenable to the requests of others, but it was truly empowering to realize that firing wasn’t around every corner for enforcing a boundary, and a lot of the time the response to saying no was just “ok”.
        Like I said upthread, YMMV, but for me and my friends we learned a lot then. My kids don’t need me in anywhere near the same way as they did 15 years ago, but still I’ve found that just saying “sorry, I can’t help with that” when asked to take on too much has still worked.

    7. Boof*

      I’m sure it’s not always the case, but definitely could see parents just being more willing to enforce boundaries (frankly, out of purse survival mode esp for the first few years) and put higher priority on jobs that allow that as being part of it. Again, certainly not always the case but I definitely will put up with a lot less from work since having a few kids, because I just can’t/won’t anymore.

    1. Lily Potter*

      Used to work with someone who said she once had a job where she made up a couple of kids for the very purpose of not having to work overtime. I have no idea whether she was telling the compete truth on this; knowing her, I suspect the story was at least partially true though. She said that Tuesday/Thursday kid soccer was the only way to get out of the office during the day without burning PTO (for reference, her job involved travel and there’s zero doubt in my mind that the company got more hours from her than she took for these “soccer games”)

    2. CR*

      I was just joking with a colleague about inventing a kid at my next job.

      But it would be a hard scam to pull off!

      1. Industry Behemoth*

        In another website discussion about attending job interviews during business hours, someone said if their search had taken longer, they’d have had to start killing off nonexistent relatives in order to attend their funerals.

    3. DisneyChannelThis*

      What happens if you do meet someone you want to date, do you work really hard to avoid ever being on dates in same city as work? Do you manage to just never ever cross the streams between personal life and work life? Does your work never have picnics or events where you’d supposed to bring said spouse and 2 kids. How do you keep track of the lies?? I feel like faking having kids is just way harder than boundaries, there’s too many milestones for kids “oh is johnny in band this year what instrument did he pick”

        1. Kayem*

          I’ve worked in small enough towns and cities where there was some crossover. And some bosses have poor boundaries or will try to verify it. I don’t know offhand how confidential HR and payroll paperwork is supposed to be.

          One time while working at a big blue retailer, I was frustrated at always being the one asked to cover shifts because I didn’t have any obligations according to them.* So I invented a husband who worked on the oil rigs (plausible in that place) and had recently come home for a week. Asked my boss (morning shift supervisor) for a Monday off. She pulled me into HR’s office and ordered me to update my tax filing status because I had claimed single, followed by a long lecture for not telling her I was married (maybe because then she couldn’t justify making me take all the extra shifts?).

          I still don’t know why she did that. I was a good worker, good enough that she made me her sub for when she went on maternity leave. She had no reason to know what exemptions I had put on my w4, I was originally night shift in an entirely different department when hired. And so what if I had put single on my W4? It’s not that uncommon for people to do that if they want higher withholding.

          *Going to school full time apparently didn’t count…failed a whole year because I could rarely get out of work to attend labs or exams, but couldn’t pay for college if I didn’t go to work.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Yeah, I’m never found of lying, but saying “I have family obligations” also works. It’s nobody’s business just exactly what those obligations are until I decide to tell them.

        Sometimes that obligation is just a good book and a microwave burrito.

      2. doreen*

        In 40 years, I never once ran into a coworker outside of work. None of my jobs had picnics or events where I would be expected to bring a spouse or kids. I’m sure that’s not possible for everyone – if I worked at the neighborhood supermarket or bank , I’d probably run into co-workers all the time.

      3. Daisy-dog*

        These are pretty weird examples. I work in a really large metropolitan area and I almost never run into co-workers outside of work. But I agree, as private as I am at work, it would be hard to lie about my personal life.

      4. ina*

        > there’s too many milestones for kids “oh is johnny in band this year what instrument did he pick”

        I am learning in this thread that some people really go in depth at the water cooler when it comes to their personal lives. A woman I have worked with for 3 yrs just learned exactly how many siblings I have a couple of months ago. She knows a lot about me and I about her (bands we like, TV shows we watch, views and opinions of bland topics), but not our greater lives outside of ourselves beyond casual references (“my husband did this…”, “my sister…”, “oh, my son loves that”…etc).

        1. Saddy Hour*

          Oh, I like this a lot lol. I’m tempted to go into my next job saying this too: oops I actually have a 15-yo boy, 9-yo girl, and triplets who are almost a year. Really busy house here, you understand why my evenings are so sacred.

  10. Black cat lady*

    First question is: assume you are salaried, not hourly wages?

    When you talk to your manager have a calendar – for several months – that shows just how many evening/weekend hours you have covered recently. Bonus points if you can pull the same data from a year ago to show how much these hours have increased. And point out this is having you drive to another city – which is ?? miles round trip – on your own car.

    Just because you don’t have kids doesn’t mean you don’t get a work/life balance with me time.

    Good luck and send in an update!!

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Remember the post COVID letter. OP wrote in that his company was very accommodating to parents. They could work from home. Non parents had to come in. And managers had a lot of freedom to split up work as necessary based on this.
      OP’s manager worked from home the entire time, to be with her 18 year old child. She put all the work that wasn’t getting done, all the over time, all the new projects on the single people. After 18 months I believe OP spoke up. Someone listened and the company scheduled a meeting.
      It was epic.
      The topic was opened and the manager began to speak. One of OP’s coworkers brought out the spreadsheet of the century showing 18 months of labor split 30-70 between at home parents and in the office non parents. It showed hours of overtime by non parents.
      The company had the decency to demote rogue manager.

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          Ok, being in law and working with compliance…this actually feels really correct in the vibe. Specifically that compliance folks would all be strongly fixated on the exact terms of the policies, and be vaguely aware the folks without kids are doing more than the folks with kids. They felt absolutely empowered to challenge a clear violation of the policy. HOWEVER, lawyers and compliance officers are generally more words people than numbers people, so it tracks for me that, until that meeting, none of them had done the data analysis at that level–when the disparity must have been glaring for a long time. And the end result being no one was fired or anything, but the house was put back in order. I imagine words were also had with the manager’s boss…like, dude, how did you not catch this messiness?

      1. Your Mate in Oz*

        I find the spreadsheet very handy for all sorts of things. I’m on salary and well paid so it isn’t strictly necessary, but it helps to remind me of things. It’s also a convenient place to record spending and any tax stuff I’ll need at the end of the financial year.

        I’ve used it officialy once, about a year before the pandemic, when my boss wanted to know whether I was actually taking off the time we’d agreed I should. I could point to a series of short weeks in my spreadsheet (to balance the excess hours on something he shouldn’t have promised a customer).

        But mostly I use to to try to keep my “if you can’t leave early you can’t work late” under control. When things are going well I’m prone to working 10+ hour days and being very productive, but after a couple of weeks of that I get run down and need to claw back the time. I’m just not always good at noticing the problem, and the spreadsheet helps.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      First question is: assume you are salaried, not hourly wages?

      I feel like this is one of the problems salaried creates; because pay is fixed, employers are going to want as much productivity for the pay as they can get. Diminishing marginal returns and escalating (employee) costs are hard for a business to quantify and grasp.

      Where hourly, at least those being put upon are being compensated for the time.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I’m salaried, but my union pushed really hard and got us time-and-a-half overtime pay if we worked more than 80 hours in a 2-week period. Suddenly, no one was expected to work overtime anymore. Weird how that worked out.

      2. Boof*

        Employers are not going to notice/feel it if salaried workers work extra unless they push back/speak up. Squeekly wheel gets the grease isn’t the best management philosophy, but it’s probably a pretty easy default to fall into if not careful.

      3. Your Mate in Oz*

        My boss and team lead both monitor productivity per hour/week in their heads and speak up when it’s dropping and they don’t know why. They also have the ability to monitor work hours (I WFH but generally need the VPN up to do anything) but they’ve never mentioned doing that. They monitor some things, and we have had discussions about what different people need to be productive. Some of my coworkers “can be very productive if actively supervised” :)

        But programmers (especially) can have negative productivity, and it can be very, very negative. A bad bug can take hundreds of hours to find and fix, and cost a great deal of money as well as time. Not putting bugs in takes an awake and alert programmer. (this is also why “we need someone, anyone, hire the least bad candidate” can be a very expensive mistake).

  11. DisneyChannelThis*

    I had a boss always assign the weekend shifts to single people. When called out on it he even said it was because others deserved time with their families. We were all so pissed off about it. How are you supposed to date, find someone to marry, have kids, etc if you are never given the weekend off?? Also married couples have 2 people to handle keeping their household afloat, 2 people to do laundry, cook, shop, clean. Singles have to do it all themselves and working 7 days a week leaves no time for it.

    1. metadata minion*

      And single people usually *have families*. And friends who count as family in terms of your social/emotional commitment to them. Not everyone is terribly close to their family of origin, either geographically or emotionally, but I hate how we’ve defined “having a family” as meaning married with kids.

      1. DisneyChannelThis*

        ExBoss was definitely defining “family” as your nuclear household, the human people who reside at the same address and are related to you by law (marriage, adoption) or genetics.

      2. Nobby Nobbs*

        I have no shame about the time I invoked “family emergency” to help a friend move last minute. I don’t even consider it a lie, really, since I’m the closest thing to able-bodied in-town family her household has.

        1. SansaStark*

          Me too, Nobby. I was friends with a couple of these people way before any of us got married/kids during some ROUGH times and no job is going to tell me that they don’t count as family.

    2. Goldenrod*

      Yep! And I think it’s worth emphasizing (as some others have pointed out) that everyone’s time off should be equally valued, whether you have an “excuse” that sounds compelling to others or not.

      I had a union rep who told me, “You have equal rights to time off. It doesn’t matter if you are spending it with family, or if you want to sit in a room by yourself and stare at the wall!”

    3. Chirpy*

      This, single people don’t often have the ability to ask someone else to pick up the groceries and start the laundry when they have to work late.

  12. Moira Rose*

    I want to say this really carefully, and I don’t want to anger people, but I’m afraid I will anyway. I hope everyone understands that I’m not intending to be inflammatory.

    I do think it’s reasonable for workplaces to put after-hours obligations into two bins and treat them somewhat differently. Bin 1 is, “someone could go to jail if this obligation isn’t met.” Bin 2 is everything else.

    So under Bin 1 we have childcare, eldercare, court-mandated classes and/or therapy, or showing up for various things having to do with the legal system (e.g. jury duty, being called as a witness) or the foster-care system.

    Under Bin 2 we have… most of life, really. Kickball, concerts, cookouts, Netflix, books, making Internet videos, your niece’s graduation, getting your car to the shop, ad infinitum.

    It’s super super frustrating when work eats up your personal time. I don’t mean to minimize that. And I think that it contributes to burnout and stress. But in general I think workplaces are by and large correct to say that, well, they can’t really make people drop Bin 1 obligations, because they could be consigning their employees to legal consequences that are so much more far-reaching than anyone would be comfortable with. So they are going to lean more on people with a Bin 2 obligation that same block of hours.

    Now, the long-term solution is 1) hire more people to spread the pain around; and/or 2) pay overtime. And those are things that should be suggested to the employer.

      1. Sara H*

        Have you hired a baby sitter? Going rate is $20+ an hr in my area. I have several baby sitters who I use on a regular basis. Sometimes all of them are booked.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Okay, but then these employees can find a job that doesn’t have after-hours obligations. Or they can ask their employer to reconsider how many of these obligations are really necessary. If you have a job that has evening events, the babysitter is part of your normal living expenses.

          But the answer is not to dump them all on the childless people.

        2. Beth*

          No one is saying that childcare is cheap or easy to find. And emergencies do happen–of course it can be impossible to find childcare at the last second, and it’s reasonable to ask coworkers to step in when that comes up, whether it’s for an unexpected work crisis or because your planned childcare fell through and it’s too late to find an alternative. I’m sure you’d do the same, on days when you’re able, for a coworker who went to the ER, left work to handle a parent’s medical crisis, or had other emergency circumstances.

          But if it’s part of your job to cover known-well-in-advance evening events, it’s reasonable to expect that you’ll figure it out (even if it means paying more than you’d like or hiring a new-to-you sitter!). Developing a pattern of putting it all on your childless coworkers is a bad look and it’s not surprising that it’s making OP resentful.

        3. Anon for this, colleagues read here*

          That’s not your colleagues’ problem, though. That’s for you to work out with your boss — or you to plan ahead for, if possible.

          I’m sympathetic to the problem. I myself have to pay $34/hour for a home health aide if I have to an event on one of my remote days or in the evening or on a weekend. Our office’s solution is that the number of such obligations has been whittled down a lot. In other words, my boss made it *his* problem and made sure his boss understood it was *her* problem too.

          If the job requires a fair amount of “hire a babysitter” hours, maybe it is not the right job for you.

      2. Raida*

        honestly i think that a business telling a parent they’ll ‘have to’ work evenings or weekends, necessitating a babysitter, can provide a budget for it.

        If I drive my car to the coast and back I can claim the fuel.
        If I stay overnight I can claim the food and hotel.
        If I buy a box of post-its I can claim petty cash.
        If I’m offsite for hours I can claim lunch.

        But an ‘inconvenience’ – oh well you can pay for that and the business doesn’t need to care, don’t complain!

        Screw that – if I have *any* personal financial costs incurred explicitly for the purpose of work then it should be repaid. That’s childcare, dogwalking, last-minute cancellation fees, event tickets unable to be used, all of it.
        I should be able to state “If I work xx day/time then yy cost. Approving that yes/no?” and if the answer is no well then I’m not working it. What, I’m gonna pay fifty bucks to earn forty? And lose home time?

    1. ThatGirl*

      I hear what you’re saying, but what Alison is saying is that the consequences shouldn’t fall on “Bin 2” people. The business needs to learn how to make sure obligations are met, without putting an undue burden on anyone. Maybe that means hiring temps. Maybe it means letting some things drop or fall a little behind. Maybe that means having a designated person to handle ad-hoc after-hours things every month. That looks different for every business and team, I’m sure.

      Me, I don’t have kids. I don’t even have a pet right now. But I do have obligations to myself and my community, and I value my work-life balance strongly. I’m happy to cover for coworkers in tight spots, whether it’s a kid, a sick day, an emergency vet visit, whatever. But not in the long run, every time.

      1. C.*

        Exactly right, and until the business feels the consequences for its understaffing, mismanagement, or whatever the root issue is that led to the LW’s situation, it’s going to keep leaning on “Bin 2” people.

      2. GreyjoyGardens*

        Agreed. It’s not the workers’ responsibility, it’s the business’ and management’s. I think workers need to drop the rope as much as they possibly can so that management has to step up and do something.

    2. Lea*

      This only works in the very short term.

      Otherwise people without emergencies are expected to handle everything.

      It should never be common practice

      1. Goldenrod*

        “I don’t think anyone is suggesting leaving the cat in charge of the children.”

        What if it’s a really responsible cat?

        1. Bex (in computers)*

          Have you met my cats? That kid would be on the black market in exchange for three cans of wet food and some chin scritches in a heart beat.

    3. HonorBox*

      Don’t disagree about the two different buckets. That said, it seems like LW was happy to cover events during parental leaves and there was an appreciation for that being part of the job. It also seems like the manager is just pushing off these evening events and absolutely COULD cover them. My wife and I have had to scramble to find care for our kids when we’ve had evening or weekend events for work (scrambling because plans for a sitter fell through). And we did it. While there are events I’ve had to dip out of early or not attend, it has been rare. And even more rare that I’ve had to push something onto a coworker to cover in my stead.

    4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I think the issue is about expectations.
      If I am hired for a job in sales and I am told that travel will be 25% of the time, two years in I have a child and no longer am able to travel 25% because of nonoptional child care responsibilities, management cannot throw up it’s hands and say, oh well, Fred will cover indefinitely.
      If I am hired as a librarian and part of the job is evening and weekend hours and running events during the month, and I am no longer able to do this because of nonoptional childcare issues, I don’t get to opt out indefinitely.
      OP is not talking about, “oh, crap, I can’t travel tomorrow, I don’t have child care set up.”
      OP’s is saying her manager comes to her and says, “here are the trips for the month. Have fun.”
      The manager needs to recalibrate the office so that the travel is scheduled equitably. Childcare is nonoptional. Travel is nonoptional. The manager needs a reality check and calendar.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        If it’s an emergency, work should find a way to cover you. That should be the case whether your babysitter doesn’t show up, you need to travel to see a dying relative, or you fell into an open manhole and are unconscious in a hospital.

        For non-emergencies, you can’t just dump your work on others every time you have [predictable nonemergency legal obligation]. It doesn’t matter if I’m missing every Monday shift because I’m watching my kids or a cat sits in my lap and I refuse to get up and disturb her; if the job requires Monday shifts, I need to find a way to be there Mondays or find a different job.

      2. umami*

        Yes, this. I’ve been confronted with this when the rules were explicit upfront. It’s completely OK to realize that a particular position isn’t compatible with your needs! But if I say after hours and weekends are going to be a part of this job, and at times will be unpredictable, you can’t just decide you are opting out of those responsibilities because you don’t have childcare. As a one-off or emergency, of course, but not on an ongoing basis.

    5. Lily Potter*

      I would agree that it’s an easy call in a one-off situation where a shift needs to be covered NOW and your choice is to assign Employee A (single parent who has kids that need to be picked up from daycare in 20 minutes) or Employee B (who has a golf tee time in an hour).

      However, 99% of situations are not like this. Employee A might have to have backup childcare in place so that they can take their turn covering emergencies; Employee B shouldn’t be afraid to prepay for a golf league because they’re always the one getting stuck at the office.

    6. Elsewise*

      That feels like an overstep from the employers, though. Maybe the “kickball league” is actually court-mandated community service that your employee doesn’t want to talk about. Maybe the parent actually could find a babysitter but doesn’t want to. The employer has no way of knowing, and they shouldn’t be making that decision for their employees.

      An employer’s responsibility is to say “we need X number of people to work at this time, and these are the people who are available, so I will build the schedule off of that.” It’s not their job, or their place, to decide whose scheduling needs are legitimate and whose aren’t.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, I feel like this is the kind of “we’re a family!” employer overreach that leads to things like, “We gave Tim a raise instead of you, because he has a mortgage and kid in college, while you would waste the money going to a Star Trek convention.”

        1. Hannah Lee*

          I was on the “stellar review, low raise” end of that reasoning at one point, where Bill the lower level marginally rated father of 2 made bank because VP (also a father of 2) thought Bill needed it more.

          It was completely demoralizing. Just because I was single and I hadn’t mentioned I was providing financial support to my elderly mother and disabled sibling, because it was irrelevant to my job, I got hosed with a smaller $ and % raise than a poor performer.

          1. amoeba*

            This is also gendered, isn’t it? At least in my country, research shows that mothers earn less than non-mothers, while fathers actually get higher salary increases than non-fathers…

        2. Chirpy*

          When really, the single person has *more* need to pay their mortgage/ down payment by themselves…

          …also, I’d be tempted to say, “if you value couples so much, maybe you should pay me go to that convention so I can actually meet people to be my potential spouse” !

    7. DisneyChannelThis*

      I think it may be a generational mindshift. I’ve noticed older people (broadly, in general, not saying everyone older) treat keeping the company going as more vital. As if their company was essential to how they define themselves. “I *must* drop my obligations so that the company event doesn’t fail.” Whereas more and more younger people are not feeling that commitment to a company, especially as workplaces tend to reduce promotions, reduce benefits, layoff without warning, give raises less than inflation, etc, there’s not a feeling that work is a part of who I am, that keeping working going is essential. There’s been 1000 companies before this one, and there will be 1000 companies after this one.

      So yes, I’d rather a work event get cancelled because no one could run it rather than skip my niece’s graduation to run the event on a weekend.

      1. Bored Lawyer*

        I think you are right about the mindshift and its root causes. Every article about the Millenial/Gen-Z lack of work ethic or loyalty or what have you elides the point that in the 1950’s you could raise a family on one salary, you would get a pension for your retirement regardless of whether you were a store clerk or a CEO, and you knew every member of your company because you were less likely to work for a mega-conglomerate.

        Treating your employees like line items that can be eliminated so your stock price can go up has resulted in employees treating their employers just as disposably. Good.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        With the caveat that I’m a Gen Xer so the “older generation” is Boomers or before, a lot more of them had stay-at-home-wives and weren’t worried about who was watching the kids in the evening. My grandfathers could do all the after-hours stuff they felt was necessary because my grandmothers were on call all the damned time.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Also, my grandfather made enough with his single union salary to buy a house and support a spouse and three children.

      3. Jellyfish Catcher*

        “Older person” here, with 3 grown kids, and history of founding a small company with long term employees.
        Some older people get caught up in their so-called importance to their job, as if it’s their life, which is sad and unfair. Some younger people have no idea how much work it is, to parent a kid.

        Parents have to make contingencies (several backup options) when they have kids, BUT so should companies. Everyone has a personal life, and crap happens.
        An emergency or unexpected thing is understandable, but the person holding the fort should get some kind of acknowledgment and compensation, whether money or paid time off – at the least.

      4. C.*

        Yes, I think you’re right about this. FWIW, I’m a millennial, and in reading the comments to the LW, I’m waiting to come across someone explicitly say: “This is the employer’s problem, not yours.”

        I totally understand where that comes from, and I’m working to shed that mindset myself, but this idea that everyone has to alter their lives around work and work is entitled to that time—even in the case of emergencies or unplanned setbacks—has become intolerable to me. I know that’s probably extreme, and I’m certain I’ll have a tough time reconciling that approach or belief in many US workplaces, but my time IS valuable—whether it’s sitting on the couch, rescuing newborn puppies, caring for a child, or literally anything else. It’s my time outside work, and my employer doesn’t get access to that because they didn’t plan properly.

        1. Confused teapot maker*

          *in reading the comments to the LW, I’m waiting to come across someone explicitly say: “This is the employer’s problem, not yours.”*

          Same. Have been wondering what happens in OP’s case if just nobody does the work after hours? I know that sounds flippant but seriously, what happens if OP just says no, they’re not available? Maybe the business loses some money, maybe they have to hire a freelancer or temporary staff, but that’s not OP’s problem. My experience is that employers don’t fix problems like this when they know they have an employee who will take on more than their fair share, so it’s time to set some boundaries and agree with Alison that OP needs to spell out that they won’t be available to do that work from now so the employer needs to make other plans*.

          * Or explicitly tell OP that the job has changed, the expectation is that they now take on this work. Which is not the ideal outcome but at least OP now knows where they stand and presumably can start job hunting.

    8. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Except that the people who are causing this problem are putting ANYTHING related to children into Bin 1, not just legal obligations.

      If there’s an evening work thing that needs coverage, why should Sam’s wish to attend his kid’s school concert automatically outweigh Chris’s Godsmack tickets in importance? Nobody’s going to jail if Sam doesn’t make the concert, and Chris paid good money for those tickets six months ago.

    9. metadata minion*

      Why is getting your car to the shop not worth priority time off? If that’s you primary or only means of getting to work and it’s not safe to drive, you need to get it fixed as soon as possible.

      I would also add medical care to Bin 1, since I think “I might die if this doesn’t happen” should at least be on the same level as “I might go to jail”.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        “Yes, you seem to be having a heart attack, but Tracy never tried to find childcare and James needs to go to court-mandated anger management classes, so you’ll just need to suck it up and work through it.”

        1. Japonica*

          some 15 years ago I had an epic rant at a coworker who kep trying to make me reschedule medical appointments. I
          pointed out that I couldn’t hire anyone else to have it for me no matter what I paid, and I didn’t even have the option of giving it up to the state.

    10. Beth*

      Sure, in a last-minute emergency where an unexpected crisis is keeping everyone at the office late, it’s unavoidable that a parent might have to be like “there is no one else to pick my kid up from daycare and I’m not getting reported for child abandonment, I’m going to pick her up and grab some mcdonalds for dinner and put on a movie, I’ll log in from home when I can.”

      But most work situations aren’t a last-minute crisis where people have absolutely no other options. For a situation like OP is describing–there’s an event where the date is known in advance, the boss knows it’s hers to cover, and babysitters do exist in the world–it’s absolutely reasonable for OP to be frustrated that it’s being pushed off onto them.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Exactly! Like, a childfree person slices their hand open in the office kitchen on the day the giant project is due. Ken needs to go get stitches, right now. Sorry, Bob, gotta see if someone else can do the daycare pick up for your kids because Ken needs to make sure his tendons aren’t cut. Bob kid’s being rushed to the ER because he cracked his head on the playground? Yea, Bob is bouncing even if usually takes this shift because of his kids.

    11. Spreadsheets and Books*

      Sorry, but I don’t agree. It’s not my problem that you decided to have children or assigned yourself eldercare responsibilities or did something that landed you in court-mandated therapy; that is your problem.

      Those “Bin 1” things that you have, for whatever reason, made a part of your life are not things that I have made a part of my life. *I* did not ask you to procreate, *I* did not ask you to get in trouble with the law in whatever way that resulted in court-mandated treatment, *I* did not ask you to personally shoulder care for an aging relative, and so on, so why should *I* have to spend my time covering for you because of the choices that *you* made that have made you less capable of doing the job for which you were hired.

      I 100% think employers need to be far more compassionate than they currently are, and to staff in a way that gives everyone more flexibility, and I understand needing to cover in emergency situations (and have happily done so!), but I will never think that my plans of watching Netflix for three hours are less important than you watching the child that you decided to have.

      Is this a selfish POV? Sure. But as the adage goes, your lack of planning is not my emergency.

      1. Spreadsheets and Books*

        Effectively, by dividing things into Bin 1 and Bin 2, you’re deciding for everyone else what takes priority based on the things that mean the most *to you.* You cannot possible think all of your coworkers should abide by whatever arbitrary ranking you have assigned to things that happen in life…. right?

        And this annoys me most in the context of kids because while yes, things like jury duty or getting diagnosed with cancer and needing subsequent care are completely unavoidable, having kids is (current moves of the GOP not withstanding) absolutely avoidable. You chose to have them, and in doing so, you made an implicit agreement that you will do what you need to do to care for them without imposing on other people.

        1. Jellyfish Catcher*

          I gotta get this off my chest. I don’t care if people have children or not. But unpredictable things happen to all people, and children are still counted as People.
          I was lucky to have some flexibility, and a small “village.” But a true emergency arrived in the night, with my spouse out of town (very rare). I was fortunate to roust out a backup in the middle of the night to come over, as I had to be elsewhere. I’m thankful to this day for that compassion and support.

          You will definitely need children someday. They will be your physicians, car mechanics, grocery baggers, truck drivers, your road construction folks, and your hopefully helpful neighbors, as you age.
          It’s not all about any one generation or dismissal of entire groups
          of people. I know this is not specifically about work, but life hits us all at some point. Be kind.

          1. L-squared*

            Sure, but the problem is, it shouldn’t fall on the coworkers to do this. This is a management problem to solve. I can sympathize. And in an emergency, that is fine. But we aren’t talking about emergencies in this letter. This is about things that are a part of the job.

      2. Ominous Adversary*

        This is less selfish than it is either misguided or dishonest.

        Misguided is setting your preference at “you chose to”. Does that mean I don’t have to cover for a colleague who got hit a drunk driver on her commute to the office? After all, she chose to live somewhere that wasn’t on a bus line or within walking distance. And I suppose I also don’t have to cover for the colleague who got sideswiped by a car on his morning jog, since he could have safely exercised at home on his Peloton instead of choosing to go for a run. Certainly I don’t want to cover at all for you when you’re helping your widowed mother with Alzheimers; lots of people cut off parents whose health needs are inconvenient, why can’t you do the same?

        Dishonest is, let’s admit that this is really about using “choice” as an excuse to bludgeon parents.

        1. Spreadsheets and Books*

          That’s why, as you’ll see in my reply, I do distinguish between the things that aren’t avoidable (jury duty, an illness… or, in your example, a coworker who was hit by a car) and things that are.

          Everyone’s priorities are different, and holding an entire group of people to one person’s preferences for order of importance is downright ridiculous. Netflix is important to me (or the hypothetical me in this example; I don’t actually watch much TV) and caring for a child is important to you. There’s no reason your priorities should be forced to be my priorities.

          1. Pescadero*

            “Everyone’s priorities are different, and holding an entire group of people to one person’s preferences for order of importance is downright ridiculous. ”

            See… that is the thing – as long as it isn’t violating any employment laws, there is only one preference that matters. The business/business owners preference.

            We might not like it. We might find it immoral/unethical. We might find it a hideously inefficient way to run a business.

            …but within the law – that is the only preference that matters.

          2. Ominous Adversary*

            But you’re not really distinguishing between ‘avoidable’ and ‘chosen’. You’re trying to take a specific beef – you’re reskinning “I don’t want to cover for parents” as some kind of category-neutral decisions. In my example, the co-worker in an accident chose to drive (which is one of the most dangerous things you’ll do all day).

            As the comment way upthread notes, you’re doing the same thing as the co-workers of last week’s letter writer who got the raise – instead of asking “Why doesn’t my employer expect us all to cover for each other, and make room for everyone’s personal lives?” you’re lashing out sideways.

        2. taylor j.*

          you misunderstood Spreadsheets and Books’s point. they weren’t saying they choose to cover or not cover someone else’s absence based upon whether or not the other person chose the obligation that is keeping them from work. S&B said, quite clearly, that you being absent for an obligation you chose to take on is not any more or less important that an obligation S&B chose to take on.

        1. blahba*

          I should add… that said I do agree it is my problem (even though I have no choice) and I have NEVER had to inconvenience any coworkers to deal with anything in my place.

        2. PlantLife*

          I guess my husband and I could have left my aging MIL to live on her own after she passed out, hit her head, and was hospitalized for three days. She’s old and is in a slow, but steady, decline from Parkinson’s, but we absolutely could have shrugged and gone our merry way. A lot of people legitimately think they live a life of no tethers or obligations they didn’t choose for themselves. Well, life comes at you fast.

      3. amoeba*

        Well, for society as a whole, having children is definitely not voluntary. Without children, society collapses. (Which is why it sucks so much how badly we do in general at supporting families!)
        And I don’t have children and don’t know if I ever will/want to. But framing this as a “lifestyle choice” doesn’t work.

        1. Tom*

          (Ding) As someone who’s single and childless, I have no problem with picking up slack for parents. Those kids might be the ones taking care of me when I’m old and grey, and at the least their money will be going into my social security.

          Childfree adults who complain about the childbearing are extraordinarily shortsighted.

    12. Sara H*

      I actually agree with this, even though it’s probably unpopular. If I don’t pick up my kids on time from childcare I go to jail and my kids go to foster care. Sometimes, I literally cannot stay late or work weekends without extremely serious and life long consequences for me and my kids. I don’t have family nearby. Last minute childcare is extremely hard to find and expensive.

      Beyond setting extremely firm boundaries, my other option is dropping out of the workforce all together. This is an option many women (and very few men) take. I’m trying really hard to stay in the workforce for a variety of reasons, but some days I really, really, really cannot cover that late night meeting or last minute email. Setting boundaries about work hours for me is about so much more than wanting family time and breaks (though I want that too), and it’s very diminishing when people push that narrative that parents just want more time to themselves when they leave to pick up kids. I promise, being a working parent is extremely challenging and I rarely get a moment of true relaxation. Literally all of my pto goes to covering for sick kid days and daycare closures.

      I do agree with others that it’s the employers (and society’s job) to provide fail safes so that work is getting done and everyone is treated with dignity and gets their needs met. Unfortunately those fail safes are really lacking in American society.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        However, there are plenty of jobs that don’t have after-hours events. If a job has frequent and built-in events, then, yes, it’s the parent-employees’ responsibility to make at least some of those work.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          It’s not necessarily “after-hours events”. It’s also “no I cannot make this 5:30 meeting you dropped on my calendar with no notice”. I’ve always been very clear that I can usually flex my schedule (switching pickup and dropoff with my spouse) to accommodate late meetings, but I need a couple day’s notice, and if she’s on travel then it’s not possible that day.

          1. Lydia*

            And that’s 100% fair. I don’t have kids and I still wouldn’t be able to make a late, last-minute meeting most days because I just don’t want to (and once a week I have a commitment). I don’t see anything wrong with having those kinds of boundaries around your time, especially if they are known.

          2. Beth*

            Absolutely fair to have those kinds of boundaries! I also do–I don’t have kids, but I do have a jam-packed calendar, a large extended family, a pet, and a bunch of other commitments in my life. Same as you, I can flex my schedule (reschedule plans, ask someone to check in on my pet, etc), but I need reasonable notice to make those arrangements. And like you, there are days where I’m just not available.

            I think most people are like this. The reasons for being unavailable differ. Sometimes it’s kids. Sometimes it’s other caregiving, or social plans, or a volunteering commitment. Sometimes it’s their personal need to be quiet and recharge for a while. But our personal lives and plans are important to all of us. We flex where we can in an emergency (taking it as given that ‘where we can’ will vary from person to person and day to day), but 99% of the time, work should either stick to standard hours or schedule decently in advance.

    13. Stormfly*

      I don’t think that’s a particularly helpful distinction. Non-parents shouldn’t have to work longer hours than parents. If your business model relies on that, it’s an unethical business model.

      It is different if someone asks to take a half day last minute or during a really busy period. Then priority matters and getting invited to a concert last minute doesn’t necessarily need to be accommodated, but you still need to let them go take their child or sick relative to the hospital.

      But that shouldn’t be how the business normally operates, and planned maternity and parental leaves shouldn’t be handled that way.

    14. PollyQ*

      Your Bin 1 mixes apples & oranges. Yes, childcare & eldercare must be done, but they can be done by other people than the employee. No one will go to jail for leaving their kids with a babysitter.

      1. blahba*

        Eldercare can’t be done by others when the elders are uncooperative and stubborn….
        I also have a sibling who refused to help.

        1. ina*

          +1000. Having done both, taking care of a child is a million times easier than an elderly person. My siblings were financially willing to help, but the day-to-day stuff just infuriated them. Kids can be uncooperative and stubborn, but they can be taught. An older person is stuck in their ways and they think you’re the kid still. *sigh*

        2. D*

          if the sibling refused to help, why couldn’t you also refuse to help? I agree that it would have been pretty shitty and immoral but like. Nobody had a gun to your head. You did *choose* to help.

          1. goducks*

            If we’re going to reduce things like eldercare to a choice, then literally everything is a choice, including working for an employer that puts undue burden on some people. It’s a terrible argument.

    15. MigraineMonth*

      What about the legal obligations of the employer? There’s no part of FMLA that says an employer can refuse to let you go to therapy if it isn’t court-mandated. Similarly, an employer can’t give more favorable conditions to one gender than another, even if the women are single parents and the men aren’t.

      In general, I think that requiring such details from an employee is a major overstep on the company’s part. The company agreed to give me money in exchange for my labor; my legal obligations are my own.

    16. Liz*

      I see some people commenting to just “find a babysitter”, which is doable if these events are happening with a couple of weeks notice and their kids don’t need any special care. If these events are more last minute, or if their kids need some kind of special supervision, it can be very difficult. And I think there is an assumption that the other parent could just cover this time, but we have no idea what parent #2 does (maybe works night shift? maybe on deployment? maybe there is no parent #2 in the picture?). I agree it shouldn’t all fall on the OP, but I don’t think we should vilify the boss. If OP hasn’t spoken up that this is a problem, boss may have no idea how often they are asking or that it has become a burden for OP.

      1. But Why*

        It appears that these events are a part of the expectations of doing the job, so why should OP have to do more of this required task because babysitters are expensive or hard to find? That is on the boss, not on OP.

        If the OP’s boss is unable to carry out part of her job because she has a child, the solution is for the employer to arrange a different approach to covering this aspect of the role or for boss to find another job that she can make work with her childcare solutions. Not for OP to do more because she is childfree.

      2. Moira Rose*

        Yeah, I’m sort of laughing/crying at all the “just find a babysitter” comments. I so rarely need one, but I do for something later this month, and I have just gotten no bites at all from the local parenting resources. I’m about to text my kids’ friends’ mom to beg her to let them hang out at their house for this. I don’t know where y’all live that finding a babysitter, especially on short notice, is easy or even possible.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I don’t think anyone is saying that finding a babysitter is easy or cheap, particularly for last-minute things. However, it also isn’t easy or cheap to reschedule a vacation, find someone who can give my cat insulin shots, or get shoulder surgery. Parents deserve accommodations for emergencies, definitely. Non-parents also deserve accommodations for emergencies.

        2. Sara H*

          So much this! It’s not as black and white as just finding someone else to watch your kids or do elder care! I am not going to leave my 3 and 1 year olds with just anyone. Once I find someone reasonable seeming, I interview them and run background checks before I allow them to care for my kids. I now have multiple baby sitters who I have vetted, and still sometimes they are all booked, or the one I booked gets sick or becomes unavailable. Like many things, navigating childcare and elder care is much more complex than it seems.

        3. L-squared*

          It may not be easy, but its also not the problem of your coworkers if you can’t find nor afford one. The big issue is that it should fall on managers, not just the employees who don’t have a known “important” committment.

    17. umami*

      I don’t really agree with this. I have a direct report (who also is a high-level manager) who shares custody of his daughter with his ex-wife. His job, and that of his direct reports, requires some after-hours/weekends work, which was very clear when he was hired. Since then, he has brought up his childcare commitments as the reason he can’t be available for some important events. And that is not acceptable. I am sympathetic (and I’ve been there), but other staff also have children and have managed to make other childcare arrangements to carry a larger burden of the after-hours work. I told him that his childcare arrangements cannot be a reason he is not available for his work commitments. I can be flexible, of course, but his impression was that just saying ‘I have my daughter that weekend and my ex is difficult’ would exempt him from his work obligations. It does not, because I will not allow him to unfairly burden his staff. Knowing the things that are challenging for your staff in doing their job doesn’t make it your obligation to solve those challenges for them.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        I think you are getting to the frustration. Even if parents have less flexibility, and can’t do as much OT, it’s presumption the predictable aspects of raising a child means child free co-workers are expected to make up the numbers. Obviously if you aren’t just dealing with your own emergencies, but those of the tiny humans you are responsible for, you will have more emergencies. But your kid existing past when daycare pickup happens is not an emergency. And yes, maybe that means you have more “can’t miss” events, but not that child free people then get to attend none of their own.

    18. Bex (in computers)*

      Sorry, but you’re wrong on this one. This is the same kind of logic that was previously used to justify paying men more than women, because “obligations and what people expect” and other such nonsense.

      If my work requires that I put in time outside of normal hours to cover company needs, then I expect that I will not be the only one in my department tapped for that role. That is not an equitable division of labor, and in point of fact, I wonder if it could run afoul of laws about discrimination based on parental status.

      The more we make excuses for companies to continue this multi-tiered approach to employee life validity, and let companies determine which employees are actually deserving of their time off and being able to set their after-work schedules, instead of making it the company’s problem to properly staff, the longer this issue will continue.

    19. Starbuck*

      Ok, sure, but these work events themselves likely don’t fall into Bin 1! So if the manager can’t staff them, and LW isn’t able to cover them all… cancel some of them!

    20. ina*

      Yes, or you could be a responsible adult and get a job that fits your lifestyle needs (i.e., one that doesn’t have after-hours obligations if you can’t spare after-work hours). You cannot rely on others to pick up your personal slack — I have to say this over and over to other parents, I am not your village. I am already in a lot of villages and my own, I don’t need to be forcibly inducted into others.

    21. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

      Once in a while, I think most people would reasonably cover in an emergency.

      But the third, fifth, tenth time it happens, it is not an emergency, it’s a foreseeable consequence. And the childless employee is no longer a pinch hitter. Dumping it on them has become Plan A. **That** is what is not fair.

    22. Joron Twiner*

      I think this calculation makes sense on the employee side–“well I can reschedule my kickball game so I’ll work, but I can’t get childcare so I’ll push back”–but this isn’t really the employer or manager’s responsibility to manage. It’s not their business to tell employees to rearrange their social calendar.

      It makes more sense to treat last minute emergencies and ongoing availability differently. The reason doesn’t matter. It makes sense to be flexible if your employee suddenly can’t make an after-hours commitment (because they need to care for someone, because their friend just got dumped, because their car broke down, because if they don’t go home and decompress they’ll lose it…). If the worker is no longer available at the hours you need them to work, then maybe they can pick up some other tasks/hours in exchange, or maybe they’re not the right person for the job.

    23. Spencer Hastings*

      So, I don’t disagree that some obligations are really and truly obligations and that people sometimes lose sight of that. But I do think there are more bins.

      In particular, even as a single and childfree person, some of my out-of-work time involves commitments that I’ve made with other people. Imagine the following conversation:

      Boss: “Spencer, you have to stay late tonight.”
      Me: “I can’t, I have an orchestra rehearsal at 6.”
      Boss: “And I was going to watch Better Call Saul all evening, but you can’t always get what you want.”

      (To be clear, I don’t actually have a job like this in real life)

      Wouldn’t that feel like an unfair comparison? Isn’t it true that, even though they’re both leisure activities, watching Netflix is something you can pick up any old night, while activities that involve large groups of people have to be scheduled in advance? Is the answer just “don’t have hobbies that are done in groups”? (I know there are some jobs that really do preclude having that kind of hobby, but your “Bin 2” makes it seem like that’s *most* jobs, which I’m not sure it is)

  13. Rere*

    Wow, I thought it was my imagination. If you do not have a family, the burden falls on you. I have more work than my counterparts.

    1. soontoberetired*

      I have battled this throughout my career as a child-free, unmarried woman. One of my bosses told me I should cover Christmas since I had no family, and I said, I’ll tell my elderly, ill parents we aren’t family then. The boss backed off. It is this that got me more assertive about a lot of things at work.

  14. Beancounter Eric*

    To people being voluntold/ordered to cover for parents, NO is a perfectly acceptable answer.

    As I have remarked repeatedly in this forum over the years, I don’t give a rat’s posterior about your off-duty activities unless/until they bring discredit upon the company or impede your work performance.

    Want to have kids, knock yourself out – have one, two, a baker’s dozen, what do I care? But do not even think about shifting the cost of their care, monetary or otherwise, to the company or your colleagues….It’s not the company’s problem, it’s not your coworker’s problem, it’s YOUR problem – YOU deal with it.

    1. Former Retail Lifer*

      Thank you. It’s fine to ask for a schedule switch when you’re in a bind, but depending on people who don’t have kids as an everyday alternative is not OK.

    2. HannahS*

      Way to entirely miss the point.

      “Policies and practices that only consider the needs of parents while leaving everyone else behind only serve to pit parents and nonparents against each other, which conveniently shifts attention away from employers’ responsibility”

  15. Beth*

    Given that it’s your boss doing the asking, I understand why your instinct is to assume you’re being told to cancel your plans and cover the events. And I understand how that reads as your personal life being seen as less important than parents’ commitments. But have you ever actually tried saying, “I’m not available and won’t be able to cover”? Much less “I was willing to pitch in to cover [city] events when you were on leave, but I can’t/don’t want to take them on long-term”?

    If you’ve covered these events in the past without complaint, she might be under the impression that you’re generally fine with covering and you’d tell her if a specific ask was a problem. It wouldn’t be a good assumption to make–pitching in without complaining during a crunch period isn’t a sign that you’re down to take over indefinitely–but bad assumptions are plenty common. I’ve learned over the years that cheerfully saying “I’ll chip in when we really need it but I really don’t want that to be my job” often goes over way better with my managers than I expected.

  16. Anon E. Mouse*

    This is coming from a place of financial privilege, but this is why I have strived to always keep myself in a position where I could quit my job at any time, without giving notice, and be fine for a few months until I got a new job.

    It would be a heck of a lot harder for this employer to find someone to cover for the employee if she quit on the spot than it would be to figure out a way to get the after hours coverage. If the conversation Alison suggests doesn’t go well, if I were in the LW’s shoes I’d be willing to end it by saying that would be my last day at the company.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      “Have a few months of living expenses saved” is a noble goal, but it’s not really actionable advice for most people in the short term.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        That’s why the person said they recognize this is coming from a place of financial privilege.

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        I have a few days of living expenses saved.

        The first time that paycheck is late, I’m going to work for somebody else.

      3. Bored Lawyer*

        Right. That was part of the calculus in why I don’t have kids! My day-to-day existence isn’t that expensive and it’s easier to save.

        But, I also recognize that is a privilege.

  17. Purple Cat*

    “Your colleagues’ flexibility is coming at your expense rather than the company’s expense.”

    ^THIS. It’s not fair to consistently dump this all on one other person.

    1. Lacey*

      Yes! This is the perfect reframing, because often employees feel like they HAVE to take on extra bc they understand their coworkers needs – but it should not be falling to them those accommodations work – it’s the company’s responsibility.

  18. Lizcase*

    i have a different bjn: “downtime/rest needed so I can continue to work and not go on permanent disability”.
    It’s a choice between keeping my boundaries and not being able to work at all.

    I know I’m not the only one with this bin.

    1. cindylouwho*

      Same!!! Does it seem like “I need to go home and lay on the couch in a quiet, dark space for a while after work” is more important than other people’s childcare obligations at face value? Definitely not. But if I don’t do that regularly, then I won’t be able to work for a week!

    2. An Rho*

      Same here– so far I’m physically only able to work part time five days a week. I can and do cover shifts for coworkers that will make it six days a week or equivalent number of shifts but they need to be interspersed. And it’s not caused by an actual physical disability, I just need extra recuperation for my mental disability because it has the physical side effect of extreme fatigue. That fatigue is why I don’t tend to have plans or leave my house much outside of work so it can seem like I have more flexibility but I really don’t. Thankfully my boss understands this.

  19. Yikes on Bikes*

    I hope that parents who see this happening in their own workplace speak up and don’t leave it to the childfree to be the only ones pushing back. But my experience has been that those who benefit tend to keep quiet so they can continue to take advantage of the “perk.”

    1. Yikes on Bikes*

      And I recognize that this is absolutely on the employer to fix – not the employees – and I don’t think it is fair when employers put their employees in a position to be pitted “against” each other. Just pointing out that when this IS happening, the onus to speak up should not only be on those who are being negatively impacted.

      1. HannahS*

        Yes, we should all be advocating for each others. I’m in my union, and I promise that I come at this as someone who materially advocates both for people who have children and people who don’t. But something to keep in mind: BOTH parents and non-parents already are negatively affected by policies that don’t allow for flexibility. Please don’t cast parents–especially mothers–as the privileged group at work. I hear the issues with work, I really do, and I did my current job before I had children, which is a job that has 24/7/365 coverage with very little flexibility. And I also know the stats on what happens to women’s jobs when they have kids, and it’s not good. Personally, I have already used an enormous amount of capital to have accommodation to allow me a healthy pregnancy and to be able to pump privately. I’ve taken a hit to my income and earning potential, been threatened with demotion, and been harrassed by supervisors, all related to my parental status–and believe me, my male colleagues with kids don’t experience that. None of this is visible to my child-free colleagues; they could easily look at me and think, “Oh, Hannah is privileged because she has more flexibility than me.” In terms of flexibility, yes, I have more. But in terms of capital-P privilege, in terms of bargaining power, in terms of capital, I have less than I did before I became a parent.

    2. Sara H*

      I totally agree with this and advocate as a manager for flexibility for all of my colleagues regardless of life circumstances. I’d love if some of my coworkers without children would help advocate for things like childcare subsidies, and emergency childcare programs. These types of programs would support my ability to be the consistent co-worker I want to be, even though I have two tiny children. I consistently bring these topics to my HR, but few others do.

  20. Former Retail Lifer*

    I have a more standard work schedule now, but when I worked in retail, this was an issue at every. single. company I worked for. Parents got more nights and weekends off. Parents got preferential treatment for holiday schedules. Parents could come in late or leave early as long as the words “my kids” were in the reason they gave. Every single employee was informed that there would be nights, weekends, and holidays when they applied, and it was always so infuriating that the parents always had fewer than the rest of us without kids. If we have the same job title, the same pay, and were given the same expectations to start, we should have the same obligations at work. Period. I now work in an industry whose hours more closely align with daycare hours and where we all have a bit more scheduling freedom than we did in retail, and it’s not an issue. I get that finding childcare isn’t easy, but that shouldn’t be someone else’s issue to regularly deal with.

    1. CR*

      The coming in early and leaving late is what really drives me nuts. My colleagues with kids do this regularly, almost daily. And I get it! I understand they’re dealing with childcare issues or whatever. But as a childless person I feel like I could never just say “Oh, I have to leave early” and get away with it whenever I want.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yep. And I know for a fact it bugs senior management just as much when parents do it, they just feel less empowered to say anything about it. So at the end of the day the outcome is still unequal expectations.

      2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        I feel like part of why this is tolerated more is that the person leaving isn’t doing so to just get to start their night 20 minutes earlier, they are doing it to make the mad dash to pick up and hopefully not get fined $100 for being 5 minutes late, then deal with a sugar high toddler, then grab the 3rd grader, then get them fed…etc., etc. I honestly think that is the mindset that causes this issue in the first place. Kids are more working sometimes. Now, as noted, the person chose to have children, so they signed up for this.

        So it is a little like having to point out that yes, Sharon needs to leave early to get to her second job, so I know she isn’t just flouncing off, but why does that mean I have to cancel my dinner plans? One of the reasons I don’t work a second job is because I want my nights free to meet friends for dinner. I get it, Sharon may get fired if she misses her shift, but why do I have to basically work the second shift at this job because she made a commitment to a second job ?

  21. Marie*

    I’m in my mid-50s with several decades in my industry. No kids, no partner. Even though schedules are generally 8-5, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had extra worker dropped on me by coworkers having to take their kids to the doctor, teacher conferences, kids’ sports games, etc. I never see the parents having to make up the time they miss, yet childless people don’t get that slack. Years ago I had a coworker who was always leaving early for something for her kid. We did the exact same job. Yet one day I had a friend flying in for the weekend and I wanted to get out two hours early to get her at the airport. I was told I had to be in the office at 6 am to make up the time, when usually start time was 8 am.

    I am always happy when I don’t have coworkers with kids at home due to all that’s happened during my career.

  22. Irish Teacher*

    Honestly, I think the real problem here is coverage. If the company wants to accommodate parents, and in my opinion, they absolutely should, then they need to ensure they have enough staff to allow for that without overworking the non-parents.

    To be honest, it doesn’t sound to me like this company is so great for parents if they are left having to depend on the goodwill of their colleagues to cover. It doesn’t sound like the company itself is doing much (like having temps cover so people can take time off if they lack childcare or reorganising the work so that the parents’ hours fit better around childcare but they still get their share of the work done or giving longer maternity leaves which are covered or anything that puts the burden on the company rather than other employees).

    My school is dealing with a situation a bit like this at the moment. We have one member of staff who is taking some form of parental leave and another who has a severely disabled child and was supposed to be returning to work after a 5 year career break, but is now applying for another leave. The problem is nobody is covering for them at the moment so things are sort of messy. I ended up taking one group one of them had in with my class, which I have no problem at all doing, but…I did not know in advance whether I would have to or not so it was hard to plan, without knowing how many I had until 10 minutes after the class started when the deputy principal came to the door to ask if they were meant to be with me.

    The issue isn’t that these leaves are available to them; that’s a good thing. The issue is that cover should have been arranged before we returned from the summer holidays.

    I do see that the childcare issue is a little bit different as that is harder to cover without inconveniencing other employees than the parental leave would be

    1. Ann*

      This. If no one wants the after-hours obligations, time to assess how important they are. Maybe no one should be doing them. Maybe whoever does them should get a raise. Maybe the company is understaffed in general and needs more people.

      1. goducks*

        Yes, this came up at my company a few years ago. A team I was tangentially related to wanted to do a series of evening and weekend events and it was going to be burdensome on certain employees, none of whom were eager to do it. We had to have a series of hard talks about whether it was worth it to the company to risk losing employees over this. In the end, we hired a part time person just to do the events. They were happy with the hours because they were hired specifically for those hours.

    2. Y'all come back now, ya hear?*

      I feel you deeply on this. In the 2022-2023 school year, my department of three became a department of me – one colleague took intermittent FMLA to get medical treatment, the other took parental leave. All required extracurriculars are supposed to be covered by their department – so I was pulling triple duty because I have no young children at home, nor could I find anyone to cover. I was also doing all of the planning, grading, discipline, and data analysis for almost 300 students in the run up to standardized testing.

      From day to day, I didn’t know who would be at school, who had a sub, if I would need to Zoom into another classroom, if there would be another adult in the room for my learners with specific needs or if they would be pulled for coverage, etc.

      It was exhausting and accelerated me leaving the classroom – probably for good. I miss them and teaching terribly, but I’m so much less stressed than I was now that I’m working a corporate job.

    3. ina*

      Reading a couple of responses, there absolutely needs to be more project managers at companies because coverage and unexpected disruption to deadlines this is just a project management and process improvement issue.

      Ok, Sally needs to take two days off (invisible reason: to care for her kid, but it could be she herself is sick, too)? Sally has a deliverable that’s critical to the project that isn’t done? What are the options? Because coming down on Sally for being out isn’t going to address the work that needs to be done.

      Does Donna stay late to finish because she’s cross-trained & has a similar skill set to Sally? Ok, thanks Donna — you get comp time or OT and we remember this going forward so you aren’t stuck doing this again and again.

      How can we avoid scrambling next time when a member is out? Can we improve cross training to promote healthy coverage? Do we expand project ownership so one person being out doesn’t halt us and cause a second person to come up to speed in hours on a project that’s been going on for months? Do we need to hire a semi-warm body in a seat that makes us slightly over-staffed during “peace-time” so we’re adequately staffed during overlapping or unexpected leaves?

  23. Punk*

    The core issue is the assumption that eventually everyone gets a turn. It becomes a problem when one person has bern continually prevailed upon to be generous but will never be in a position where it’s acceptable to ask that the favor be returned.

    Yes, it’s a problem that parents are often prioritized over non parents, but I find that it’s more effective to articulate the issue this way: it’s assumed that at some point you’ll be the one that other people need to cover for, so it’s okay to overburden you know.

    1. Coin Purse*

      Exactly. When I covered leave after leave, I was told “well we all take a turn”. Except apparently for me.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I was struggling with this, but I was able to balance it out when I developed a health complication that required surgery and extended post-op leave. Just lucky, I guess.

    2. Lily Potter*

      “Everyone gets a turn”. Punk is talking about this in terms of “big picture”, as in “everyone has a couple of times in life where they need a team effort from their co-workers” – think maternity leave, surgeries, serious illness, elder care. I’m a believer in this idea. Since very few people work a lifetime at one job, the people you’re covering for at your current job likely won’t be the ones “paying you back”. You just have to hope that when your time of need comes, you’ll get the support you need.

      Where I take issue is in the “smaller picture”. The day in, day out stuff. The “Mommy Hours” co-worker from above who traipses out at 5:00 pm on the dot every day, leaving co-workers to clean up the day’s mess until 7:00 pm – but who never, ever can seem to find a way to do anything extra during the work day to lend a hand to a co-worker. The parent who can never, ever work a holiday – even if, say, s/he has a co-worker who wants to spend the holiday with a terminally ill parent, because KIDS. The parent who blows up the department travel budget on a premium time, non-stop plane fare because, you know, gotta be home for the KIDS. It’s the day-in, day-out stuff from parents that drives me bonkers, not occasionally covering for a maternity leave.

      Lastly parents – show gratitude for those who are stuck with the scut work. Gratitude means the difference between co-workers who’ll have your back always and co-workers who might cover for you today but good luck with dealing with a problem next week.

      1. Punk*

        I’m not even talking about the big picture. I don’t have much in the way of family and I’m at an age where there’s no practicable way to make up all of the impositions I might have imposed on other people. And it’s okay to take the micro view on this, since I’m one person and I don’t deserve to have my life impacted negatively for the sake of the net greater good.

    3. Head sheep counter*

      I think a lot of folk do a behavior that might not be ideal (parent hours) under the pretense that everyone does it or that everyone will do it. I don’t think folk generally do this behavior “at” people but they just assume that it all comes out in the wash. Its also hard to track when something becomes chronic/habit and to realize how much one has taken from the goodwill of others. Especially when its so loaded a problem.

  24. Annie*

    As a childless person it isn’t so much that I’ve been asked to take on more work personally—it’s that at almost every company I’ve worked for, there are never resources provided to cover leaves—the work just gets dumped on everyone else.
    I once worked for a company where a coworker was on maternity leave for a year—and for that year I had to cover the work. A year later, she went on leave again for another year. Same thing. No provisions were made to provide resources to help do the work.

    So, yeah, while childless folks often do get the short end of the stick (I’ve definitely seen more flexibility for parents), the main issue that that companies don’t resource correctly.

    1. Ann*

      I’m in this position now. It looks like when I go on leave, there won’t be anyone to cover for me, and my work will just get dumped on others. Which means they’ll be stressed and stretched, and also some of it won’t be done till I’m back (including time-sensitive stuff), and it’s all a big mess. And the company just can’t hire anyone to plug the gap. They’re trying but no luck. It’s all so frustrating, and the whole thing is kind of no one’s fault, but it’s still a mess.
      I hope my coworkers get nice big raises for their trouble at least.

    2. kiki*

      Yes, I feel like I bring this up a lot, but ‘lean staffing’ has made this even worse. Staffing levels should not account for everyone delivering 100% all the time– they have to account for the fluctuations of life and the fact people aren’t robots.

    3. Filosofickle*

      Interesting point. I have never had day to day work get pushed on me instead of parents — I work with a lot of moms and actually think they may take on more than anyone else — but I have definitely taken the brunt of multiple mat leaves! Two in the past year, with zero coverage, we just have to distribute the work and get it done.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Oh, and these are long mat leaves too — current one is 6 months without supplemental coverage!

    4. CommanderBanana*

      ^^ This. Every single place I’ve worked has responded to mat leave by dumping the work on everyone else, never by hiring temps or consultants.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Depending on the nature of the job, that may be necessary – if there’s a lot of specific domain knowledge or a highly specialized role then hiring a contractor may not be a reasonable option. But in cases like that projects need to be prioritized so that people don’t end up doing a job and a half worth of work.

    5. Midwest anon*

      I completely agree. I was on a very small team & my manager went on mat leave twice in 2 years for 6 months each time (1 year total), which is fantastic. but we didn’t hire a temp worker or do anything to decrease the workload, so I got stuck managing a very unsustainable amount of work for an entire year during that time. And no bonus or other rewards for the employee that has to cover. It feels very unfair that the business is able to push all of those costs onto the employees, instead of the corporation.

  25. Girasol*

    Watch out for parental favor for raises too. My coworker’s wife got pregnant. Since he was a father and I was a single woman, he got a raise and I didn’t. I was working extra hard to deserve it. He got drunk during lunch breaks and either couldn’t be found in the afternoon or he was present but damaging company equipment. But that didn’t matter because he was a father.

    1. Dahlia*

      I think that’s less “parental favour” and more “sexism”. I doubt his wife would have gotten the same raise.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Ah-yup. After all, she’d just be working for “pin-money” while he has the responsibility to bring home the bacon. /sarc

      2. Raida*

        yes – I’ve seen this too with “well he can’t go back to his substantive position, his wide’s pregnant!”

        No, we don’t make hiring decisions based on staff’s finances. We make hiring decisions to get the right people in the right roles.

      3. amoeba*

        Yeah, it does give fathers an advantage vs non-fathers though, there are studies! At least in Germany. *Of course* it works the other way around for mothers, who are much *less* likely to get a promotion than non-mothers.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Hah, back in 2012 or 2023 I was working at a small association, and the ED said they could get away with paying a candidate less because “she was married” so of course they could lowball her because she had a husband.

          That relic finally got ousted by the board, but it was over 5 years later.

  26. GreenDoor*

    Yep. Push back. It might help if you can quantify it. Like “we’ve had 10 after-hours events in just the last two months and I’ve covered 8 of them. I’m asking for coverage to be distributed more equally.” It might also help if you can proactively describe a solution. I do have kids and I really like knowing ahead of time when I’ll have to stay late. For example, “Since there are three of us, I’m hoping we can rotate Saturday events so that we’ll each have one on and two off. A rotation will make it easier for all of us to plan our weekends in advance.”

  27. Sometimes maybe*

    Before anyone jumps down my throat at the comment I’m about to make, I want to be very clear -It is not fair when childfree employees are always stuck carrying more weight at the office than parents, but if /when it must happen (and should not be happening regularly) it helps me to reframe my thinking from “I am doing this for my coworker” to “I am doing this as a member of society taking care of the children in my community”. Paternal leave isn’t primarily for the parent, but rather for the child who needs constant paternal care. Adults who had parents who regularly attended parent/teacher conference, doctor visits, school performances are generally more productive members of society (i.e. better coping skills, less prison time, less communal medical cost.) Again I’m not saying parents should get a free hall pass whenever they want, its just a way of thinking that leaves me feeling less resentful when I need to cover for other parents.

    1. "Mommy" Hours? Really?*

      I feel like this about supporting schools even though I have no children attending them It’s a societal benefit to have educated people. And some of these students may be my doctor, lawyer, or caretaker one day.

      1. Educator*

        As a career educator, I think there is a big difference between supporting schools and supporting parents—accountability. Schools are directly accountable to the communities they serve, whether via tuition dollars and alumni involvement on the private side, or elected boards on the public side. It’s a common project in which I am invested as a citizen, and I have a voice in priorities and resource allocation.

        Other peoples’ parenting, however, is not a community project unless they are failing badly. There is no direct accountability to the broader community, and we don’t get a say in how they do it and how well they balance it with their other responsibilities. And while parental involvement is super important in general, it is very rare for it to matter that much when it comes to individual events. If you are at most of your child’s soccer games, missing one or two for work will not damage the kid. If you are there to take care of them almost every night, they will be fine with a sitter occasionally.

        And speaking of supporting schools, teachers are some of the worst offenders on this. I cannot even begin to calculate how much time I spent assigned to duties outside of school hours as a young, single teacher while my colleagues with kids collected them and left. And it is a lot harder to push back when your professional identity is connected to supporting families and children. Thank goodness I figured out that part of supporting my students was taking care of myself.

        1. Sometimes maybe*

          Yes I agree with a lot of your comment, but when you think about covering for a coworker who has childcare responsibilities, vs supporting coworkers in other life choices, the children will have a direct impact on me (in the macro of course). If I have to choose between covering a coworker for childcare vs say pet care, in a few years, the child will vote, produce the food I eat, build the roads I drive, research the cure for the diseases I suffer, etc, vs the pet who only adds value to the owner. I am not making excuses for entitled parents or saying their lives are more valuable, I am expressing how I deal mentally with having to cover. As I said in my original comment covering for parents should be the exception, not the standard. But I do think contributing to healthy and productive child rearing should fall on the community, especially employers, in addition to parents.

          1. Chirpy*

            But, that “community child care” should not be at the expense of single people being forced into the worst part of jobs with little to no reprieve.

            I’m perfectly happy to vote for more funding for schools, even without any kids of my own, and even if my taxes go up. I understand the value of educating all children. I am NOT willing to be the only person working alone in the office from 3-5 every afternoon because all the parents (even the one with a stay at home spouse) decided they needed “flex time”.

            And to your pet comment: sure, in a few years that pet will be dead. The pet’s “value” is now, to the few people that experience it. For some people, that pet is what keeps them alive and functional though, and it’s important! That human might not be as “useful” to the people around them without it!

            But it’s really awful to base worth on anyone’s potential value to society as a whole. Not every kid will eventually contribute to society in a meaningful way – that doesn’t make them worthless. Single people aren’t always most useful picking up the slack for parents at work – what of the ones who could be doing great research as a hobby, or useful volunteering in their spare time? Maybe their hobby or volunteer calling is something that helps everyone, and always getting stuck at work means the community as a whole loses out. And maybe they’re valuable just hanging out at home, keeping an eye on the neighborhood. There’s an awful lot of ways to be a contributing member of society without being forced into picking up the slack of direct childcare needs.

            1. Sometimes maybe*

              I was never talking in absolute, of course there are many ways to contribute to the community and of course not every individual falls neatly under one umbrella. My entire point is not to solely view coworkers who are parents as all entitle demanding you support their lifestyle with no regard for your own, but rather just people struggling to do it all on their own without support from their employer or the community.

              1. Chirpy*

                Well, then those parents need to stop actually acting like they’re entitled, and people need to stop valuing parents over single people. I did actually work in an office where I was told over and over that my time wasn’t worth as much as theirs – I had a coworker who dropped her kids in *my* office, and eventually they all started leaving me alone in the office all afternoon, even the one with a stay at home spouse who didn’t need to pick up her kid from school herself. Everyone else thought this was perfectly acceptable. I actually had worked there longer than all of them and should have had seniority, but all that mattered was my lack of children.

                Obviously this was one dysfunctional workplace, and most people aren’t like this, but I’m speaking from experience. Sometimes coworkers really are that awful and entitled, and it shouldn’t be on the single person to make up for them.

        2. Ann*

          Really? Schools are more accountable than parents? Please be aware that this mindset is very corrosive. Parents live with the children. Schools do not. The real responsibility, including legal, is on parents in the end.
          Don’t get carried away. Your work is important, but give parents more respect. They’re the kids’ family.

          1. Educator*

            Accountability and responsibility are not the same thing. Thankfully, you don’t need a parenting license or to meet statewide parenting standards! That does not make parental responsibilities any less important–I would say that they are more important in most contexts.

            My point was that I don’t want to see pro-education rhetoric used to ameliorate companies not fulfilling their obligations to employees. The whole “children are future citizens” thing historically comes from efforts to justify the importance of public education. We should all support the institutions that are accountable for shaping our future citizens, and that is not the same as expecting individuals, rather than companies, to personally sacrifice their own responsibilities to support parents’ responsibilities. I think it is awesome when people want to support the next generation, but I know I make a difference through my work, advocacy, and direct service in my free time–not by covering for a coworkers’s childcare issues.

    2. Sara H*

      Exactly! I’ve had to be out of office at really inconvenient times for my coworkers. I think if my coworkers saw me comforting my 4 month old with a wicked ear infection (until the meds kicked in) they’d have so much more empathy. It’s actually not about my needs as a parent, it’s about this tiny baby who is in pain. Most of my coworkers would agree that the tiny screaming baby who is in pain is more important than whatever meeting I was missing, but they didn’t get that visual so it can feel more like “ugh she’s using the parent excuse again.”

      1. Dahlia*

        My mom’s coworker once showed up at work, nearly in tears, with her baby in the backseat of her car, because her baby-sitter cancelled last minute and her mom, her back-up baby-sitter, couldn’t get there for like fifteen more minutes. We didn’t HAVE a daycare in town at all then, and the closest one had a super long waiting list.

        It’s a grocery store, so if she was late, she was probably gonna get in trouble.

        My mom had just finished her shift and she was just like, “It’s fine, I’ll hang out with your kid for a bit while you go clock in.”

        Like it’s just an all-around shitty situation when stuff like that happens.

    3. ina*

      > “I am doing this as a member of society taking care of the children in my community”

      This is not remotely compelling to me – it turns a work thing into something weirdly personal. My coworker is my coworker, end of story, and this is just a situation — like it they were sick — where their work needs to be covered. I would rather frame this as “I am doing this for my coworker and it will make everyone’s work life easier.”

      I don’t know, but this re-framing makes me want to help less. Their choice to have a kid isn’t my responsibility; the work, however, is a shared responsibility. Why the coworker can’t do their work and needs coverage just happens to be a child. The same as someone being out for a vet visit or extended medical leave would be another equally valid reason.

      1. Sometimes maybe*

        I understand the point you are making, but I disagree. If I am covering out of communal responsibility vs I am doing a favor for the company, I feel less personally involved. and there is no lingering sense of debt, for me anyway. And I feel like providing support to parents is more a long term investment in the common good, rather than covering so someone can take care of a pet or personal matter (which I would do as well of course, but based on the comments happens far less frequently). I don’t think you are wrong; we just have a very different world view.

      2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        I think what Sometimes Maybe is more trying to do is point out a potential strategy to deal in the moment. We are know the issue is that employers are not ensuring that coverage needs are met or that people without children’s out of the office time is respected as much as those with children….but the reality is you still have to deal with this grossly lopsided system and, you know, try not to build up resentment against the people who are just trying to work and parent. The resentment should be for the employer who decided kids are the only acceptable reason to say no to working late, not the parent who really, really does need to say “no.”

    4. Head sheep counter*

      I can see what you are trying to get at… but honestly its a bum pitch for those of us who have been mis-used by this situation. We have no say in whether or not a parent is raising a productive member of society. In fact, for good reasons… anyone can be a parent with no pre-qualifications that they raise productive members of society. Further – its a crap shoot as to whether or not a human turns out good, bad or otherwise. We all have potential and that potential only somewhat reflects the environments we were raised in. Making one set of people who have no chips in the game do the work lift for another set of people (who then expect to progress and succeed at the same level that the person who’s doing the extra work) is not appropriate. The how (shifting the work to one class vs another) that happens… is complicated by society, our work-culture and a host of other factors.

    5. Sharon*

      No. You are doing it to meet the needs of your employer, NOT to support your coworkers. The tasks that need to get done benefit the company, not your coworkers.

  28. Kelly*

    I was a large animal vet for years. We sometimes had techs or assistants come with us on the road. A couple of them had young kids, but one of the other vets insisted on bringing the one who had a useless husband and HAD TO be back before shifts ended for the day at least weekly. My boss would often send me to pick her up and bring her back to our office during my work day reducing my own productivity instead of the person she was with. Between this and the other highly toxic aspects of this job I quit. My colleague also quit knowing she would never have time to have kids with that job.

  29. "Mommy" Hours? Really?*

    Here’s the other side: The folks who scale back availability due to parenthood often suffer career consequences, at least they do according to other letters on this site. Those exhibiting more flexibility have greater career advancement.

    It’s important to remember that equitable does not mean equal. I’ve been on both sides of the parent/no parent equation, as a single mother no less (which increased no one’s empathy, it’s a cold world out there). My need for flexibility did not impose extra work on anyone, but it was still resented out of some puritanical notion of fairness. I was not ever asked to pick up slack for a parent before I had children either, guess I was lucky, But if I had, I would have simply said I can’t if it became a regular thing and I highly valued my time off as a non-parent. Please don’t resent parents when you haven’t pushed back on management unreasonableness.

    Parents who are accommodated by n0n-parents should look for opportunities to do something for them, such as taking on an undesirable task or something. Non-parents should be given something for going above and beyond to help out parents with scheduling problems. At no time should parents feel that their parental status makes them special of affords them privileges at the expense of non-parents. But in the end, coverage matters are the company’s problem.

    I can’t believe that in 2023, mommy wars are still an issue. And yes, parenting burdens still primarily fall on one parent when there are two, or a mom when it is single parent like I was. “Mommy” hours-yuk. Glad this is all behind me.

    Good luck OP, these can be tough waters to navigate.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      I’ve been thinking about the “flip side” too – I’ve definitely missed advancement opportunities for not being able to work 12-hour days, or to travel to certain out-of-town meetings on short notice – but that’s another issue and really is derailing to discuss here.

  30. H.Regalis*

    I’m in the Midwest (re: Nicosloanica and anyone else speculating if this is regional) and don’t have kids, but I’ve had coworkers who ran into this and left jobs in part due to it.

    My industry skews heavily towards men and the guys in my department who have young kids are always on calls like, “Sorry, I have to leave exactly at Time O’Clock today because I need to go pick up my kids,” and I’m like, “Go! Run! Get out of here!” I take full advantage of being able to flex my schedule for my own needs, so I also make sure to cover times when I know the parents of young kids aren’t able to. That said, I have never gotten stuck with crap shifts and extra work because I’m not a parent, and I would not be happy at my job if I did.

  31. Bex (in computers)*

    While this is a serious issue – and one I’ve been on the receiving end of, as my partner and I did not have children (and didn’t steal our kiddo until four years ago) – it’s just one more symptom of an overall problematic habit companies have of running on such a lean staffing model that there is no redundancy for anyone to have ANY sort of issue.

    I had to unexpectedly take a total of six weeks off earlier this year, split into two chunks, due to surgeries that were immediately needed. My department managed, but there was definite issues without me in the office. Same as there is when one of my colleagues is out for more than a day or two. It’s just too much work to reliably ask one person (or however many) to do.

    And I get that companies exist to create a profit, but you’d think at some point, someone would realize the issue with running permanent skeleton staffing is that as soon as one person drops the system collapses.

    Also – I frequently just used an apologetic face with “I’m so sorry, I’ve already committed my (evening, Friday, weekend, what have you) and can’t change that.” Whenever I received push back, i would make sympathetic noises and repeat, “Mmm, yes. So unfortunate” or similar. I’m sure it was annoying for my bosses, but it’s not my job to perpetually accommodate their terrible and everpresent scheduling and staffing issues at my expense.

    1. ina*

      > overall problematic habit companies have of running on such a lean staffing model that there is no redundancy for anyone to have ANY sort of issue.

      1000000%. This shouldn’t even be LW’s problem. “Sorry, I’m not available on short notice. I have something I can’t cancel that was booked well in advance.”

    2. Anna*

      I know this isn’t your main point, but what do you mean by “steal our kiddo”? Is this a joking way to refer to adoption?

      1. Bex (in computers)*

        Close yes – guardianship battle that we won for my (much) younger half sibling. It caused a family rift and some in the family still refer to my partner and I as “kidnappers” or “thieves” because we got the kid. Never mind all the CPS reports, the legal hearings, etc.

        So now it’s become a joking way for all 3 of us to talk about how we got the kid – because otherwise we’d have to acknowledge some of our family thought the situation was fine.

    3. NoCoverage*

      yeah, when I take time off no one covers my work so I just have more to do when I get back. I normally don’t take .ong vacations because of this, but because my company changed their time off policy as of 2023 and I ended up taking the last 12 working days of the year off, and then my sister unexpectedly passed away on Dec 31 so I took an extra week of bereavement leave without any work time in between. I came back to thousands of emails and dozens of catchup tasks on top of the new work.

      If I take a th4ree day weekend I invariably end up working 11-12 hours the day I get back (and sometimes the next) to catch up.

      It would be nice to have at least some low key coverage.

      1. Bex (in computers)*

        Exactly – and this is not a slam on my colleagues; it’s just a testament to the fact that everyone already has a full plate. There’s nowhere to shift. I’m in IT field, so luckily we have the slower days, but that’s when I sit and work on my massive backlog of administrative work, additional reporting, etc.

        It’s bad enough that the overall IT division for our global company has to set aside two days a year where we can make our (mandatory) training our priority. Because otherwise, it wouldn’t get done.

        And all of this chases back to the idea of “less employees = more money”

  32. Coin Purse*

    Newly retired, worked 52 years, childfree woman….this happened to me ALL the time. As a nurse I once had 3 months of double shifts/double assignments to cover 2 maternity leaves. My last job had me cover every FMLA/maternity leave/bereavement leave because “the others have child care responsibilities”. Pre pandemic, my colleagues with kids were allowed to work from home while I was not.

    I am assertive and when I would address this I was told everyone needs to step up and be a team. Only it was only me required to redouble my efforts. I actually ended up retiring after covering a full year of leaves.

    I don’t know what the answer is but the issue is real and you shouldn’t have to hit 65 to escape it.

  33. Not Mindy*

    I know that many parts of the US have at-will employment, and job descriptions can (for the most part) be changed at any time. However, what about the following scenario:
    Chris and Pat have the same role and job description which requires 3 travel days a month.
    Chris has a child and their job description changes so that no travel is necessary at all.
    Pat doesn’t have a child and their job description changes at the same time to 6 days of travel a month.

    I imagine that there would be some sort of recourse for Chris if they didn’t want the change and felt that it was due to parental status. But does Pat have any recourse?

    1. Katie Impact*

      There may not necessarily be any recourse for either of them: family status isn’t a protected class federally in the US, only in some stats.

      1. An Australian In London*

        Even when family status is not a protected class, if it can be shown that these requirements and expectations fall differently on men vs. women, that’s absolutely discrimination based on a protected class.

  34. Lainey L. L-C*

    LOL, when I was a single mom, I was the one that worked nights, weekends, and every single holiday and my single and child-free coworkers had the M-F, 8-5, holidays off (except Christmas – I had one coworker who always wanted to work it.) After about a decade of this, I finally got the daytime shift and you would have thought the world ended when coworkers were told they would have to take ONE holiday. But then, there were massive fights about me ever taking PTO because someone would have to take on my work, so I can’t count the number of times my PTO was canceled/greatly reduced. When COVID happened (and so did layoffs) I volunteered to work the weekend nights again for a few months until things got reorganized. 2 years later I was still working it, so I quit.

    I had a friend whose department overlapped with mine, and she always complained that she got the weekend/night/holiday shift because she didn’t have any kids and that’s how our company was. I’d always ask her then why was I there with her???

    All companies seem to run on as bare a minimum as possible, and do not have any kind of reserves for sick employees/parental issues/health crisis/need to be home for repairs/etc. You should be able to take a vacation, go to a doctor’s appointment, have some sort of crisis and it not be a burden to other employees.

    1. ina*

      When I was younger, my aunt would love the night shift as a single mom because at night, guess who was home?! Her family, who could watch the little one! Lol. When little cousin went off to 1st grade, she switched back to day shift but I do think that “single people are forced to work night shift” isn’t the reality of the situation – particularly in 2 parent households. I’ve seen some couples where one works day shift and the other works nights and that’s their childcare (brutal, tbh, because that’s so little time together as a family but people make it work!)

  35. Never Surrender*

    I am a late carrer, child-free litigation paralegal. This is a very real problem. I spent 5 years doing back-to-back trials because I didn’t have children, I’ve stayed late and been chosen from the team because I didn’t have children. I’ve been expected to cover umteen million times because I didn’t have children.

    It drove me nuts. Have children, don’t have children – live your life. Do not continue working in a position that requires a lot of OT & travel if you have children and no coverage. It is so incredibly unfair to those of us picking up your slack. You may be the nicest, best co-worker in the universe but nothing is going to overcome the resentment of constantly being told that your life is more important than my life because you have kids. NOPE.

  36. Ellis Bell*

    OP, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice by framing the issue as childcare Vs kickball. It’s about her getting to enjoy her choice of lifestyle vs you getting to enjoy yours. It’s about short term emergencies getting confused with long term negligence of your needs. Sure, it’s easier to cancel a kickball game than it is to summon childcare out of the ether, and you’ve respected that, but that equation gets easier on her end with time to arrange something, just as it gets harder on yours with each cancelled game. So, I would go into the conversation with the phrases “long term” and “short term”, and the approach that “obviously” it can only be something you were urgently needed to do in the short term, and it can’t possibly be the case that the buck has been permanently passed to you. Something like “I know I was needed to cover more out of hours stuff in the short term, because of childcare emergencies, but I wondered what the long term solution is likely to be?” It’s okay that there isn’t one yet, as long as you make sure there’s a difference between short term emergency expectations and long term default expectations. I might also say “It’s true that I had more immediate flexibility to help out in the short term, but I still have commitments and I can’t honestly say I can agree to such a big role change long term.”

  37. Buglet*

    As a child free woman, I was given the early classes and late classes to teach for years, more administrative duties, and there was more expectation that I produced more research. I did get promoted for doing a load more work, but at no faster/higher rate than parents who were getting me to do theirs. Although it ‘takes a village’ to raise children and there is some argument others should pick up the slack so children can get raised and parenting is difficult, I spent my life teaching the children of others and accommodating the schedules of my co-worker parents. At some point, it just didn’t wash with me anymore that I was supposed to endlessly self sacrifice. When I started having better boundaries, and just saying, I covered x times for a colleague, but now I need some reciprocity because of x important thing, and just stood there, I got my way. Wish I would have known that earlier.

  38. ina*

    Sounds like big events happened in a coworkers life and you all need to get together to figure out how to address this because the current situation isn’t ok and you can’t keep operating like it was BK (Before Kids).

  39. cactus lady*

    When I was new in the workforce, I worked at a fancy doctors office in the SF Bay Area that had an MRI machine in house, and one of the MRI techs (the only one who had kids at the time) was very vocal about how she felt like the techs who didn’t have kids “owed it to her” to cover the shifts that interfered with her childcare responsibilities. I wasn’t an MRI tech, but it always bothered me that she did that, and I thought she was a jerk.

    Fast forward 15 years, I am a manager and don’t have kids (can’t have kids), and I see it more as a symptom of the systemic inequity/sexism that we dealt with in that office. (In retrospect I wish I’d reported it to someone since I’m fairly certain they engaged in discrimination based on gender.) The management owed her – and the other MRI techs – a fair scheduling process.

    I no longer work in healthcare, but I thought about this a lot as I was trying to figure out a system of fair coverage for one of my employees who went out on maternity leave and after she came back and had to balance childcare with work. It’s hard! But it’s not impossible. It just takes a little thought. I have learned over the years that a lot of managers are not very thoughtful in their decision making processes.

  40. Louise*

    Whenever these letters come up, I’m reminded of my mom and her mentor.

    My mother works in healthcare, and while her schedule is usually pretty M-F 9-5, holidays are a different matter. When I was young, Mom had a late-career mentor/coworker whose children were grown. This woman would volunteer for the holiday hours so that others such as my mom and other colleagues with young children could have them off. (I’m sure the extra pay helped her decision!)

    When my sibling and I got into our young adult years, my mom started volunteering for those holiday hours. Even now, mostly retired, she will work holidays so that her colleagues (all of whom are moms with young children) can have the day. (Mom also loves the 1.5 pay rate lol)

    None of this is particularly helpful to OP (who I sincerely hope gets to play kickball asap!), but in a topic that often brings out so much misdirected but understandable frustration, I wanted to offer a nice story of folks paying it forward.

    1. Beth*

      I love that 1) your mom’s holiday coverage is something she volunteers for (rather than something she’s assigned whether she likes it or not) and 2) her employer has acknowledged it’s an inconvenient shift and offered much higher pay to compensate for that! That’s the way to go when you need coverage for parents–offer high enough compensation that it’s worth someone’s while to volunteer for it.

  41. Frankie Bergstein*

    I burned out badly at my last job. This was one of many issues. Here’s what I asked for as a recognition for the work that employees without children were being asked to do:

    -include it in performance reviews. Note that the employee took on extra work for the colleague who was out by naming the specific projects, accomplishments, additional duties, and value added to the organization.

    -consider this additional work in bonuses and raises – money, after all, is the best way to recognize employees for effort.

    -when there are professional development opportunities, put these individuals forward first — they have gone above and beyond for the organization.

    -have celebrations for things that are not baby showers or weddings (I was getting a request for $ for baby showers multiple times a week! Expected contribution like $40-$50!) — celebrate recently promoted colleagues, too. Celebrate the colleague who ran her first marathon, bought her first house, untangled a sticky work situation. If it were up to my curmudgeonly self, we’d celebrate only work accomplishments at work — successfully finishing a project, winning a proposal, the end of the year, a department meeting its goals.

    In other words, recognize this additional work for what it is — additional work and flexibility. And validate all kinds of family structures by celebrating things that aren’t weddings or babies (I love both, btw!). That way, folks like me who constantly hear things like, “yes, my calendar technically says I’m free for a 10:30am meeting, but my baby isn’t asleep by that time,” can feel like we aren’t being taken for granted.

    Anyway, none of these changes were taken seriously… I got told that I was being too unsympathetic and that it was really hard being a parent. I left that job.

    But, I happily volunteer to help families with teeny kids in my community; I am loving my Aunt role in my personal life. I love parents, I REALLY love kids, I love helping out, and I hate being taken for granted.

  42. Chairman of the Bored*

    My approach to this sort of thing is to assume that if this extra work being dumped on my head was *important* then my employer would have bothered to provide dedicated coverage for it rather than just hucking it at me to do in my spare (?) time.

    Since they clearly don’t think it’s important, I’m happy to follow that lead and just let those balls hit the floor rather than try to juggle them.

  43. Inkognyto*

    I had this issue once, and it was turning into almost 24×7 coverage. I had been debating going to the Director but I wasn’t sure how to bring it up as I never saw them and I didn’t want it to be an email. I was also getting exhausted being woke up randomly overnight. I was sleeping on the couch as to not wake up my spouse.

    It came to light during one of the on-calls, my Director called me, who then asked why I was on-call for a 2nd week. I said “I’ve been on-call for over 2 months, as no one else seems to be able to work it now, and I keep being told you need to cover”. I heard the gasket blow. “Waaaaht??!?” also audibly hearing her mouth open and close a few times with 1 word syllables trying to grasp it. Going off that response I got bold.

    I said I had to sit at home because it has internet, I cannot go anywhere (I was rural), and while during the week it was fine, being stuck at home during the weekend was rough. I explained I’m tired, and it’s hurting my sleep schedule, my spouses and impacting my work. The end of that support 3am support call that I solved in like 5 min. I was told I had the day off tomorrow. I didn’t need to call in either. I slept until Noon.

    Not only did it turn out, but I was also out of rotation. Normally an 8 week rotation. I didn’t do a rotation for the rest of the time I worked there almost 2 years. When the Director said “I’ll take care of it” oh boy did she. On top of that the dept got an on-call laptop with a hotspot, that I never used.

    I’d have worked for that Director. The mgr. I could write a book on the stories from all of the employee’s working for him. He got promoted into Director later. Sometimes excrement does flow uphill.

    1. kiki*

      I think this is a good example of why it’s important to have skip-level meetings on a somewhat regular basis. It sounds like this manager flat-out sucked, but even a good manager drops the ball on something or for whatever reason assumes the status quo can’t be changed on an issue that really could and should.

      This has happened at a former workplace regarding hiring. At the beginning of the year, executives had said that there was a no exceptions hiring freeze. So a lot of managers didn’t bring up the need to backfill positions, even though the situation on their teams was increasingly untenable. When a director met with team-members at their bi-annual skip-level, they realized how nuts things had gotten and realized that their edict had come across as too harsh.

  44. Spicy Tuna*

    I once worked at a local branch office of a large multi-national company. I was the only child-free person in the office. The company decided to move most roles to regional offices and only leave the ones that HAD to be local at the local offices. The closest regional office to our local office was about 4 hours away.

    SO MANY people in the office asked the branch manager if they could switch jobs with me since it wasn’t fair they had to move with their kids.

    The jobs that were moving were completely different than the ones that got to stay local. Local jobs were llama groomers and llama auditors because we had to be near the llamas to do our jobs. The jobs that were moving were llama account service. I couldn’t believe that someone with no llama grooming experience or certifications would think I would just swap jobs and move 4 hours away to do a job that paid significantly less.

    Thankfully, my boss didn’t even entertain such nonsense.

  45. Susannah*

    Alison’s advice was spot-on, excellent as always.
    However, I’m not optimistic the sit-downs will work. I’ve worked many places that were “family friendly.” That basically meant single people worked nights and weekends. I had a colleague who thought it was was critical he attend every one of his teenage daughters’ weekend soccer games (meaning I and one other single person on a team of 9 had to work then). He got very angry when I said, you know, that *I* had a personal life, too.
    He said, “should I be punished because I have children?”
    I said, “should *I* be punished because you have children?”
    I’m afraid it didn’t get much better, especially since most people did eventually have children and became part of the special group.
    It’s similar to why we’ll never lower the drinking age from 21 (even when allowing kids to marry at 14 with parental permission, or go to war at 18). Politicians figure eventually people will turn 21 and not care, so they’ll never face an electorally substantive pushback.
    Fortunately, where I work now, there’s an understanding that we ALL have personal lives that should be accommodated. And because of that, I step up as much as i can to help a parent with a child care issue. They step up for me as well, and my employer understands sometimes we will be short-handed. And life will go on.

  46. SydneyW*

    This used to happen to me.

    Eastern state of Australia here.

    I was working in a business that had a bad “presenteeism” culture with people often working up until 9PM. Read: Under-resourcing and bad project scheduling by the business.

    The people with kids ALWAYS left at a reasonable time, leaving all the child-free or older workers to pick up the slack and do “busy work” until a critical mass left for home. It was exhausting and unpaid but still somehow part of the work culture. I left after 9 months and am in a much better place now.

    Remote working has made this practice obsolete, thankfully.

  47. Raida*

    If you’re doing more work, state that the increased workload – especially outside of regular hours – should be reflected in increased pay.

    Ask about how the business goes about ‘higher duties’ when filling in for someone else with a higher pay grade. Even if it’s just a portion of their higher-paying-work, a good business will calculate that out. IE handling a day’s worth of their work every two weeks = 1/10 of the difference in pay on top of your normal pay.

    Or – and this is a hard one – state that you require sure and steady knowledge that you are a valued member of the team and your time outside of work hours will be respected, so you want to nail down the maximum (other than in rare circumstances) days per month you’d be picking up extra work like this.

    Having clear parameters helps in workforce planning.

  48. SB*

    As a parent, sometimes *SOMETIMES* I need to bail on work to attend to sick kids. Not often though & I would NEVER expect a coworker to cover me without some fair exchange of work (you help me out with this & I will cover you for that yuck task that no one wants to do next week for example).

    We also rotate major holidays. It is not assumed that the parents will get to take the Xmas/NY period off just because we managed to punch out a few kids. I got it off the last three years so this year I will cover the office between Xmas & NY so the rest of the team can have the break. Each year, one of us covers so the rest can be off.

    We do try to give preference to parents for leave over school holiday breaks & so far this works because the child free people seem to prefer to travel when there are less kids & it is cheaper (gee, I wonder why) but if someone without kiddos really wanted that time off & got their form in first then they would get it. This also isn’t the US so we don’t get the whole summer off in schools so there is plenty of summer time outside of school breaks for people to enjoy cheaper rates at popular summer vacation spots!

  49. I Have RBF*

    We recently did our “holiday planning” by letting the boss know what time off we wanted to reserve for the rest of the year. I usually take the week of Thanksgiving off to do a lot of canning. Also, I like to take some time off between Xmas and New Years. But if someone has family stuff? Since it’s infrequent and I don’t have travel lined up I can modify my time off. If I made travel reservations, I couldn’t. Yes, we have some coverage issues, but we do have enough people that it’s manageable. If I was always having to cover for childcare I’d feel different about it.

    To me, at a good workplace there is a negotiation around coverage between the employees and their manager – a give and take. When it is a problem is when one class of employees, like people with young kids at home, gets all the take, and everyone else has to give. I will never get “my turn” in that arrangement, because I never had kids and never will.

    On the bright side, as a elder worker, I have definitely learned to draw boundaries and advocate for myself. I may not be popular for doing it, but it has proven to be an example for others, which benefits everyone in the long run.

  50. Sneaky Squirrel*

    I once had a job that required our at least some of our team to be physically present any time the company was open. Normally this is fine; we do our 9-5s, and clock out in the evenings when the company closes. Except the company never deviated from normal work hours for hazardous roads/weather because 99% of the company could work remotely for a day or two. Well, when the roads/weather are hazardous, schools close. Those of us who were child free always ended up being the sacrificial lambs who have to make a treacherous commute for the company while parents on the team were able to work from home with their children.

    This is a company problem. I know it’s not a parent’s fault that they need to care for their child; it’s the company’s fault for making the choice of profits over people. But it is incredibly frustrating to feel like your safety is not valued over another person and to feel like the ‘team’ isn’t really a team during times where everyone may need extra accommodation.

  51. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    All my jobs (Europe) required badging in/out (R&D engineering) so every minute counted for our comp time.
    I loved both the flexibility of being able to choose short or longer days any time and the fact that I was never working for free after my 35 hours were up, even if I was covering for an absence.

    Also paid maternity leave here is minimum 1 year (and iirc 3 months for fathers), sometimes 2 years, so we always had either temps or the work that coworker did was paused.
    An additional advantage being no need to pump at work – I’d never heard of office pumping rooms before AAM.

    No extra work after leave to clear up any backlog – in fact all jobs let anyone choose to work a variety of annual options for reduced hours, although it was mostly parents or people a couple of years before retiring who chose this.
    iirc Each parent legally can use up to 20 days additional leave per child (40 for single parents) but only at 67% pay.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Parental status never affected when we could take vacation, but with minimum 30 days (+ 9 public hols +30 days fully paid sick leave) it was never a problem during my 35 years of various jobs.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Problems here seem to be caused by employers running too lean on staff and being very mean with comp time and PTO

  52. sofar*

    LW, you need to make this your boss’s problem to solve. And that means saying, “I can’t” to an upcoming request. Full stop.

    I once took over a task that required some night/weekend work for a coworker on parental leave. That task was the crux of her job, and so she made sure to take off extra time during the week to make up for, say, having to work a half-day on a Saturday. But I had to tack that task on to my entire job!

    She never returned from leave, and I just kept doing the task and vaguely asking when we’d figure out a “permanent” solution for that task. My boss, who was also overwhelmed (and also had an increased workload from that coworker not returning), was thinking, “Well if sofar is doing the task and doing a good job, problem is solved.”

    So, the next time I was asked to do something on a Saturday morning, I sent a Slack to my boss and her boss and was like, “I have a commitment during this time, so I won’t be able to go.”

    I did not propose a solution. I did not offer to “find coverage.” My boss asked around to see if any other sucker would take it. Nobody raised their hand. And so, the event was cancelled.

    I did the same thing for the next one (working on Memorial Day) and said I’d be traveling that day.

    Same thing happened.

    So my boss’s boss found a contractor to take on weekends.

    The contractor was expensive and sucked. And called me all the time for “help,” so it was like I was on anyway. I stopped taking the calls. The contractor was let go.

    So now, the new normal is I still say “yes” to some of the weekend events I actually WANT to do and say “no” to the rest. And then those get cancelled, or my boss or her boss handle them if they are truly that important. If I get scheduled for a weekend thing, I take half of Friday off and leave things undone. The company is happy to save costs on not hiring a new person and are happy that I’m doing “some” of the weekend stuff.

    So yeah … LW, make this your boss’s problem. Not yours. Sure, they could fire you, but if they’re already short-staffed, that’s not so likely.

  53. Out Of Office*

    Yep my last job was just like this. The company bent over backward to be “parent-friendly,” and along the way, ran the childless employees into the ground with extra work. Thinking about it still frustrates me.

  54. Orange You Glad*

    I think there should be a differentiation between temporary or emergency coverage and never taking on anything extra just because kids.
    Kids may be a reason for an emergency or parental leave that needs to be covered, and I think most people are okay with stepping up once in a while in this scenario – as long as it doesn’t become the default. The same coverage should be provided to non-parents who could also have an emergency arise.
    I’ve worked with parents who needed to flex their schedules – maybe working 7-4 instead of 8-5 or 9-6 or leaving at 3 to pick up the kids from school but then logging in after dinner to finish a project. That’s work-life balance and generally doesn’t burden the non-parent coworkers.
    When it turns into a situation where the parents always get to leave early without making up the time and/or dumping extra work on others, then it’s not fair. The work still needs to be evenly distributed and everyone should be working roughly equal hours. Maybe the parent can’t cover the last-minute event that came up this weekend, but why can’t we schedule them for the event 2 months out?

  55. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*

    The employer is achieving “work-life balance” by making OP do extra work while those with children get lives outside of work.

    That’s not how it’s supposed to go down.

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