updates: interviewing with a service dog in my lap, stuck working for father, and more

Here are five updates from past letter-writers.

1. Interviewing with a service dog in my lap

The short version is: I didn’t get the job.

I ended up being so focused on preparing for the interview as a service dog user that I failed to prepare for the interview as an interviewee. I made my service dog a new bowtie so he would look professional (very cute, zero regrets), and spent an entire day working on new training so he would sit calmly and silently beside me during the interview (he did great during the interview and we have never used that skill again). I forgot to do basic things like prepare an answer to “What do you know about our organization?” I used to be great at interviewing, but this one was a disaster. I would like to think part of that was the setup (a socially-distanced panel of five, making it hard to know where to talk), but definitely a lot of it was just that I was ill-prepared and worried about how people would perceive my service dog.

I think what I really needed to hear was that it may not be the best optics to show up to a job interview with a service dog in a sling, but that if the interviewer took issue with that, the job and employer likely were not a good fit for me anyway.

Since then, another identical position at a different location of the same employer opened up, and I applied again. I asked the hiring manager from the first position if they had any feedback before applying and received a positive form letter from HR, but I was not even offered a screening video interview for the new opening.

Ultimately, just the process of applying for two positions and interviewing for one of them was so stressful that I don’t think I am ready to go back to work. I haven’t looked at job listings again since.

2. My colleague’s wife and her mommy group attended our work presentation

First, thanks to commenters’ suggestions, we moved to a different presentation format where only the moderator and speakers appeared on camera. We also realized that we had a unique opportunity to provide educational experiences for the community at large, and have continued to do so.

Here’s where I feel slightly vindicated – it turns out that our colleague who arranged this particularly talk had been having an affair with another colleague, which unbeknownst to me had been revealed shortly before this event. The colleague’s wife and her mommy group showed up to the talk in a show of solidarity for the colleague’s wife. Since then, this colleague has faced a series of other troubles about inappropriate conduct in the workplace, culminating in complaints from three young students and the launch of an investigation! So, a wild turn of events if there ever was one.

3. I keep almost falling asleep in meetings (#4 at the link)

I sent you a message… good grief, over seven years ago!  I talked about how I was falling asleep at my team’s long, talky meetings.

Since then, I’ve had a ton of changes in both my career and my personal health. I’ve been diagnosed with a few physical issues (nothing directly related to sleep, but SO MANY THINGS that have fatigue and poor sleep as a symptom), gotten medicated for most of them, and FINALLY started consistently sleeping through the night.

As it turns out, the other issue with that team was that the Meeting of Doom would run over time and through lunch. The undiagnosed sleep issues plus a warm, stuffy room plus interminably long meetings full of arguing that I had no real ability to participate in PLUS missing lunch was a one way, irresistible ticket to snooze town.

I’m at a different job now (and my past year here could be a letter in and of itself!). Most importantly, I haven’t fallen asleep in a meeting once since 2017. Thank you for giving me the push I needed to get that checked out!

4. I feel stuck working for my father

I wish I had a better update to provide. This past year, or at least since last February, there really hasn’t been much change in my work/family relationships. I was told to stop seeking therapy by the family, so everything is more or less the same. I do receive slightly better (lower/middle income) compensation for the work I do, but still have yet to receive any direction regarding my job.

Currently, I am doing accounts payable, safety, admin work, which is fine. I have offered to set up training and/or become the site super-user for our manufacturing software, which would more or less be a similar role as when I was working independently, but haven’t gotten any buy-in for it. I still do some data analysis on the side for some internal stakeholders, but it isn’t anything newsworthy. I think at this point, I’m fine hunkering down for a few years. I know this job won’t go anywhere, but I’ve found respite in being on the shop floor more often and socializing with the maintenance department.

5. My coworker smells like weed (#3 at the link)

I don’t have a very interesting update, but the problem did go away. Seems like the receptionist either caught on herself or someone higher up mentioned something to her, shortly after I wrote the letter the smell went away and I haven’t seen her noticeably stoned since.

{ 219 comments… read them below }

  1. Oh No!*

    #4 Says: “I was told to stop seeking therapy by the family, so everything is more or less the same.” and man is that a scary sentence to read! Please continue to seek therapy, and look for connections outside of your family that will encourage you. You dont have to be on anyone else’s timeline, your life is yours.

    Good luck #4…

    1. Boba Feta*

      Yes. OP – on this particular directive, please take this internet stranger’s advice to IGNORE IT. I never advocate lying BUT this is one place where I would have no qualms supporting your decision to …. OMIT particular facts about your actions with regard to supporting your own mental health.

      Good grief, fam.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I’ll advocate lying if you won’t! Someone who tries to control your life to this extent has forfeited all expectation of trust. Safety comes before honesty.

        1. Fishsticks*

          There are a lot of people out there who think “mental health/illness” is code for “making things up” and “therapy” means “going to someone who will tell you it’s all my fault (which, since it is, will make me look bad and I hate that)”.

          OP clearly has someone who either wants to wholly control them or who thinks therapy is the problem and not the family’s behavior.

          OP, keep going to therapy, keep working to find a way out. You deserve a better mental and physical space.

          1. Prismatic Garnet*

            Also don’t confuse “declining to volunteer some information” with dishonesty – which is a mistake controlling families are happy to foster

      2. Emily*

        Thank you for the update, LW # 4. I just want to emphasize what so many other commenters have already said: you don’t need your family’s permission to go to therapy, and they don’t need to know anything about it. Family dynamics can be incredibly difficult, but please know that so many people are rooting for you, and you deserve to get to pursue the kind of work you want to do, no matter what your family thinks.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Highlighting this.

          You don’t need your family’s permission to go to therapy.
          You don’t need your family’s permission to find another job.
          You don’t need your family’s permission to quit working for your dad.
          You don’t need your family’s permission to move away.
          You don’t need your family’s permission to limit contact with them.

          They are trying to keep you small and dependent on them, but they don’t control as much as they pretend to. Therapy is one great tool to see this clearly, but there are others if you can’t find it at this time. Friend of this site Captain Awkward has great advice about escaping controlling families.

    2. Yup*

      Oh yes. My heart sank after reading that. I know it’s so hard to do, and a real struggle, but you don’t need permission from your family. You deserve to be well because YOU deserve it. Good luck, we’re rooting for you.

    3. ecnaseener*

      Yes, I’m so scared for you LW4 :( If there’s a friend or anyone else you can trust to help you extricate yourself, please ask them.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      Yeah, that set off alarm bells for me as well. OP #4, please do what you need to do to take care of yourself and your mental and emotional health. Don’t let your family prevent you from doing so. They have absolutely no right to make that kind of demand.

    5. Modesty Poncho*

      Came here to say the same thing. You being in therapy is NOT something your family gets to decide for you. Stop telling them if you must but do not let them take this from you.

    6. duinath*

      of course they told #4 to stop therapy… if they continued with therapy they might realize they don’t need their family’s permission. get out of there, #4. get away from your family, and get away from your father’s business. they can’t trap you. they only make you feel like they can.

      1. Artemesia*

        Begin to look at job possibilities 1000 miles away. If you have any former classmates, friends or whatever in cities fare away, see if they can assist. Your future probably depends on physically removing yourself from their oversight. And you can do therapy remotely if you have trouble physically getting to an office secretly.

    7. Seashell*

      Yes, that seemed seriously odd to me. The only thing I could think of that halfway seemed reasonable is if the family was paying for it and didn’t think it was helping or was making LW’s symptoms worse. However, LW, if you feel like you need it, go back to where you were or find another provider.

    8. Sedna*

      Woof, just chiming in on this. Please get yourself some outside support so you can decide what /you/ want, not what your family expects & demands of you.

    9. Prismatic Garnet*

      OP4 I understand that sometimes controlling families are very good at financially entangling their adult children with themselves, but you mention that you’re in your 30s- please try as much as possible to just stop running opinions and decisions by your family, apply for pretty much anything that will get you out of your family business, and forge an independent existence.

      In your first letter, you mention your ideas for your career being “rebuffed” by your family, but for most people past the age of 20 or so, your family disagreeing with your plan shouldn’t affect you actually attempting that plan! That’s just their opinion, let them have it, and do your own thing! Stop sharing details about your life and plans with them, and go try something different.

      Similarly, if you can get a job with OK health insurance, that will let you continue to seek therapy, be sure to do so. Your family doesn’t need to approve of or even know about therapy. You’re an adult and have been for a decade plus now, you don’t require anyone else’s approval of what you’re doing.

      I know people are going to come in and say, well, when you have a messed up abusive family it’s not that easy. But things can be simple without being easy, and people who are in the situations do need to hear and have reinforced just how abnormal this is and how much you don’t have to be constrained by it.

      Try and take a sober assessment of how much of their power over you is real (finances, etc) and how much is something that you can work on dropping or disregarding in your own mind (what they are supportive of you doing). A lot of the chains that these type of people try to put on those they are controlling are illusory.

      1. Allison Wonderland*

        I just want to add that starting to develop external support systems can help in the detangling from family control.

      2. Christine*

        My husband’s nephew has decent pay (more than $16/hr!) and good health insurance from his job at Costco. He had a major mental issue last year which was covered, and he’s back to work now.
        There are options out there!

    10. Orora*

      Thank goodness I’m not alone in my alarm. LW4, anyone who knows you’re unhappy and tells you to quit therapy is invested in keeping you unhappy. In the words of the Crocodile Hunter: Danger, danger, danger!

    11. Hey Ms!*

      Seconding, Thirding, Millioning–
      When your family forces you to stop therapy, that’s when you should really really really continue with therapy. This is for you, not for them.

      You are right where THEY want you to be. Therapy will help you find the tools to get unstuck from here so that you can get to where YOU want to be.

      I think I can safely say we are all rooting for you!

    12. Lady_Lessa*

      Let me add to the chorus of please get back into therapy. You deserve a good life, you deserve to get out and discover who you are.

      Lie if needed to account for the time away.

    13. Observer*

      “I was told to stop seeking therapy by the family, so everything is more or less the same.” and man is that a scary sentence to read!

      Yeah. I winced reading this.

      OP, you are your own person, and get to go to therapy if you need to. Even if you just *want* to.

    14. Ellis Bell*

      That is so much scarier than them telling OP what job they should be doing! They’re undiagnosing his health concerns and overruling professional treatment?!! A 100 out of 10 on the Yikes-O-Meter. OP, if you don’t want to go to therapy, fine, but if you do, you can go without telling them where you’re going! You’re an adult!

    15. PotsPansTeapots*

      Please continue going to therapy if you can, OP4. If money’s an issue and you’re in the US, call 211 – it’s a warmline meant to direct people to social services and resources. Helping you find low-cost therapy is quite literally what it’s made for.

    16. Prof*

      This was scary to me too- OP4, your family doesn’t want you in therapy, but any decent therapist is going to teach you to keep boundaries and not let your family control you. Please stay in therapy….just don’t tell them if needed.

    17. Llellayena*

      Absolutely! If the sheer number of responses you receive here encouraging you to restart therapy actually get you there, I’m adding my voice to the choir. NO ONE EXCEPT YOU gets to make the decision on whether you attend therapy. NO ONE EXCEPT YOU gets to tell you to stay in your job. NO ONE EXCEPT YOU can tell you how to live your life. Other people are allowed to voice opinions and make suggestions and encouragements, but that is NOT a directive you need to follow. Make the choice for yourself based on what YOU think will help you the most.

    18. Anon for this*

      Your family does not get a vote on whether you seek therapy or where you work. But start small with the therapy. You can always say it’s an allergist or something else if you have to have a cover story. Please be well.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        It kind of encapsulates the entire reason for therapy being practically a necessity.

    19. Aphrodite*

      OP #4, move. Move at least three hours away; another state is ideal. Since you were influenced by the family to stop your therapy, it is obvious their power over you is strong. It seems to me that the only way right now to break that is to move far, far away. Once you’ve done that, then re-start therapy. Otherwise, I fear, you will never leave and never know what it is like to have your own life either professional or person. And you deserve that.

    20. Keymaster in absentia*

      Getting out of an abusive situation is really an ongoing process. If a thing like therapy without their permission is too scary then I advise starting much much smaller. ONE thing you do that they don’t know about. This can be anything from a coffee alone with a book, a trip to the library alone, meeting up with a friend for a bit..etc. even a locked word document where you rant and plot your escape (put a very good password on it).

      That one tiny moment of defiance can roll up into bigger ones.

      1. Lils*

        I second this idea and it worked for me. I also recommend focusing on doing something healthy and positive as Keymaster suggests, and be careful to avoid potentially unhealthy distractions (such as secret drinking or other substance use). Podcasts and audiobooks are great for this–no one needs to know what you are listening to in your headphones–and there are many pods about how to survive and manage toxic family systems.

    21. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      OF COURSE your family told you to “stop seeking therapy”; they have you just where they want you (doing multiple jobs for minimal pay) and the last thing they want is for you to get an outside opinion as to how they’re treating you OR validation for your own concerns about being stuck there! One of the first things that abusers do is to isolate the target of their abuse; getting feedback from people outside of the “abuse bubble” threatens the abusers’ control and can lead to the “target” deciding to pick up and leave.

      OP, as an adult you do NOT need to tell your family everything you’re thinking, feeling or planning to do; this is one of the many perks of adulthood. Your family does NOT have the right to know every single thing about you, even if they’ve managed to convince you that they do. One of the best and simplest ways to get back the power over your own life that is yours by right is to stop telling your family so much! And that includes telling them that you’re going to get therapy – something which, as an adult, is your right to seek and to get.

    22. Chirpy*

      OP #4: please do not let your family decide for you what therapy you need. I know from experience that it can be difficult to hide doctor’s office billing and visits from family you live with (in my case, it was anxiety treatment and it was making it worse to be questioned about it by well-meaning but clueless family) but please, if that’s an issue, get a new free email address, go paperless, and have the doctor’s office change your contact info to your cell phone, if possible. Please get the help and therapy you need. You deserve better.

    23. GlitterIsEverything*

      I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a better example of a crab bucket.

      Getting out of the bucket is never easy – every time you start to climb out, they’re gonna grab hold and try to pull you back in – but if you want to live a life that YOU choose, getting out is the only way.

      Reading your last few sentences, it seems that you’ve resigned yourself to your family dictating your life. I hope the plethora of comments here telling you this isn’t normal, it’s not healthy, and that YOU CAN GET OUT sinks in.

      Please find a way back in to therapy. Or find a job out of state. Or find / reconnect with friends that don’t work for your father. You need connections outside of the family that can act as ropes to help you climb out of the bucket.

  2. Nicosloanica*

    #1: take comfort that my first interview returning to job searching is always a disaster. One time I somehow got the time mixed up, was completely unprepared for a call out of the blue, and couldn’t remember the specifics of that job / company (including where it was located). I was trying not to be obvious at work and couldn’t get back to my computer to look up the details … the whole interview was a blur, but I definitely did not get advanced to the next level. The next one went better. I did eventually get a job, and I believe you will too when you’re ready! Good luck.

    1. Throwaway Account*

      There are about 3 places to work where I am that do the thing I do. Place #1, where I worked, was evil bees, mean girls, and the office rolled into one. I got an interview for place #2 and blew it (and I’m usually a great interviewee!). I never thought a job would open up at place #3 or that they would seriously consider me so I was so sad about blowing the interview at place #2. But a job opened, I applied, and they chose me!

      I now work very happily at place #3 and I am almost positive that if I had gotten the job at #2, I would never have applied at #3.

      So there might be something better around the corner!

      Best to you

    2. Beth*

      That’s been my experience too. The years between job hunts take their toll! The first time back, I’m nervous to be doing a new thing, my interviewing skills have gotten rusty, and it’s probable that interviewing norms changed since I was last doing it anyways (I’m especially thinking of my first post-pandemic job hunt and the sudden abundance of zoom interviews). I try to start job hunts a few months before I really mean to be serious about it, because the first few weeks will just be me rebuilding skills and getting over nerves.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yeah, exactly. I always apply for a few jobs that I’m about 50% interested in when I first start a new job hunt, just so I can try to get in some interview practice without having the stakes be too high. The first few interviews back are always rough. It’s not easy to talk about yourself and your experience in a coherent way if you haven’t done it for a while.
      OP 1, please don’t be discouraged. If you were great at interviewing once, you can be great at interviewing again. And your service dog’s bow tie sounds awesome!

    4. C.*

      Yes! Exactly this. Interviews can feel like high stakes situations in many cases, so it’s normal to fixate on one part of something (in this case, I think your service dog) to “control,” forgetting sometimes that there’s a bigger picture. You’ll smash it next time, and the job will be yours!

    1. Happily Retired*

      No kidding!

      [i]Here’s where I feel slightly vindicated – it turns out that our colleague who arranged this particularly talk had been having an affair with another colleague, which unbeknownst to me had been revealed shortly before this event. The colleague’s wife and her mommy group showed up to the talk in a show of solidarity for the colleague’s wife. Since then, this colleague has faced a series of other troubles about inappropriate conduct in the workplace, culminating in complaints from three young students and the launch of an investigation![/i]

      1. Happily Retired*

        OK, site doesn’t do html, or at least the kind I use, lol.

        After the quote above with the italics fail, it should have included “insert popcorn emoji”.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Above the comment box there’s a link to the site’s commenting rules. Underneath the rules is a little explainer of how to use html on this site (angle brackets instead of square brackets).

          The comments section doesn’t support emojis.

        2. Martin Blackwood*

          “html” with square brackets is actually called BBCode! bbcode is used on a lot of forums, but not this comment section

    2. Zombeyonce*

      The story brought up so many questions. How does attending your husband’s presentation affect his affair? Were they expecting the affair partner to be there and wanted to remind them he was married? Was it a weak threat?

      This is verging on fanfiction so I’ll stop, but the update brings up more questions than it answered.

      1. PotsPansTeapots*

        There was a professor at my college who was cheating on his wife with another professor. It got really dramatic and a little over the top. I could totally see something like OP2’s story going down. Academia is a weird place.

        1. Orv*

          We once had the ex-wife of a professor who got divorced file a FOIA request for his email. ALL of his email. Ostensibly he was hoping to find evidence of infidelity. He was allowed to filter out personal stuff before turning it over, but he’d never deleted any email in his entire career, so it was a gargantuan enough task to take a serious toll on his productivity.

      2. Too Many Birds*

        This was my question as well!! What was the mom group being there supposed to accomplish vis a vis the cheating professor?

        1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

          STARING AT HIM. This makes total sense to me, maybe I have just been in academia too long.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Yep, they are there to stare at him and let him know that they know that he knows that they know.

  3. Mom Who Attends Serious Seminars*

    The phrase “mommy group” is somehow more grating and condescending than “parent group” or even “mom group”

    1. SnackAttack*

      Yeah, I really hate that term. I feel like “mommy” has a more negative and condescending connotation (mommy group, mommy blogger), whereas fathers always get to be “dad” and are associated with more positive things, like “dad jokes.”

    2. 1-800-BrownCow*

      While I’m not a fan of the term “mommy” (it’s personal preference thing), however ‘Mommy Groups’ are a thing. I see events or groups listed all the time on social media calling themselves ‘Mommy and Me’ playgroups, story times, swim classes, etc. For all we know, the group in question may have referred to themselves as a ‘Mommy Group’ and that’s where LW picked up the name.

      On the other hand, if LW refers to all mother’s as “Mommies” when speaking with adults, then yes, I’d find it condescending and grating and would not appreciate it.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        The “mommy and me” groups, though, take their names from the perspective of the child, ie the “me” in the name.

        The word Mommy being used by someone who is not the woman’s young offspring is just like nails on a chalkboard to me.

        Though I might not be typical, my mother at one point announced to me and my 5 siblings that we should start calling her by her first name, because she could not bear 6 children between the ages of 16 and 6 saying Mom! Mom! Mommy! Mom! any more, so mom and mommy dropped out of my daily use.

      1. SnackAttack*

        For me it’s not necessarily an admonishment of OP’s choice of words – more just an issue with the term in general. I’m not judging OP for using it.

    3. Prismatic Garnet*

      There’s nothing that indicates OP is choosing to use that term versus that actually being what that group is called. A lot of them are titled that, and it probably sounds a lot less condescending to people who actually have children at an age where they would be addressing them as mommy.

    4. Velomont*

      As I am a 64 yr old non-parent, and I ask this non-snarkily, can someone tell me what a “parent”, “mom”, or “mommy” “group” actually is?

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        It’s meant to be a group for parents (usually mothers) to trade tips, help each other (like with the recent formula shortage), and give them (and the children) connections with those in a similar situation.

      2. Shiara*

        It’s a community group focused around parenthood/motherhood, often primarily made up of stay at home parents of preschool aged children. They generally arrange playdates or park days, coordinate going to local children’s events or attractions, swap advice or recommendations, maybe some parents’ night out events, it can vary a lot. But generally they’re a way to get some adult socialization and support from people in the same parenting life stage.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Most likely, it’s the name of the group chat on the cell phone.

        It would be a group of parents. Probably of infants and toddlers, which is a time when you often feeling pretty overwhelmed (you’re on duty all the time, with people who can’t be reasoned with) and could use the support of others in the same boat. Sometimes this group forms from a friend group (e.g. half the parents in the prenatal class start hanging out). Sometimes it is set up, e.g. the library or a local social service org tries to act as a resource to put new parents in contact with each other.

        I would expect that the people in it are more likely to call it a friend group or a moms’ group. “Mommy group” “mommy blogger” etc have baggage around the idea of someone who identifies only as a mommy, and should do that because in the speaker’s view she has nothing more interesting to contribute. “Mommy stuff” would carry a superior, dismissive connotation that “mom stuff” or “parent stuff” does not.

  4. AS*

    OP 4: I’m glad that you’re doing a little better, but I’m alarmed that your family has “told you to stop seeking therapy” and you imply that you’ve acceded to this. Which health resources you choose to seek out, and how you choose to care for yourself, is none of their business at all. If you are reliant on family funds or health insurance but still think that therapy would be a good option for you, some providers charge on a sliding scale. Wishing you all the best.

  5. Falling Diphthong*

    I want to thank everyone who provides updates, whether they take bizarre turns (2) or report the status quo still antes (4).

    1. ferrina*

      Yes! Much thanks to the updaters! As much as I love the fan fic, it’s always more interesting to hear how things actually turn out (even when it’s a boring update).

  6. Gemstones*

    #1 The dog sounds cute, but if you have to work this hard to get him to sit quietly (a basic part of being a service dog)…is he a genuine service dog? Shouldn’t that be something he does all the time, when he’s on duty?

    1. Jade*

      I also was wondering. Emotional support dogs are not the same as service dogs who are trained for a specific task. I deal with service dogs in my line of work and also people who want to bring their ES animal and there is a difference.

      1. Nicosloanica*

        Let’s not do this. And if you read the original letter, OP explains that the dog is usually carried in a sling to manager her anxiety. But on a workplace blog in 2024 let’s not get into picking apart the accommodation needs of people we don’t know when that wasn’t really the heart of the question and the writer was kind enough to share an update which presumably they have mixed feelings about.

    2. 1-800-BrownCow*

      In the original letter, Alison reminds the commenters’ about the group rules, particularly in regards to taking the LW at their word. So if the LW states it’s a service dog, then we believe it’s a service dog and shouldn’t be questioning otherwise.

      1. Heather*

        Does taking LW at their word mean “assume that they are telling the truth as they perceived it” or “assume LW has perfect knowledge”? because those are quite different and a lot of people here conflate them.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          There’s a link to the commenting rules above the comments box. I think the two rules in play here are (copy/pasted from the commenting rules):

          1. Be kind to letter-writers and fellow commenters. That means:
          • Give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t jump to a negative interpretation of someone’s comment or situation; assume good faith on the part of others.

          6. People are experts on their own situations and know more about their own circumstances than you do.
          • This is an advice column, not a court of law; letter-writers don’t need to “prove” the facts of their letter to your satisfaction. Please don’t subject them to, “But are you sure? No, are you really sure?”

        2. Mango Freak*

          How is this distinction relevant to this LW or the commenters’ quibbling about their dog? Are you suggesting LW might *not know* whether or not their own dog is a “service dog,” and that that might affect their ability to interview for a job?

          1. Ahnon4Thisss*

            In honesty (and this is not directed at the LW, just as a mention about the general public), a lot of people do believe that their emotional support animals are service animals and don’t understand the difference. I’m sure that’s not the case here, but I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had to ask to leave my job’s building because they’ve brought an ES animal and tried insisting it was a service animal but could not tell us the task(s) it performs or control the animal.

    3. ecnaseener*

      If the dog is trained to alert for panic attacks as per the original letter, that’s a specific task that helps mitigate a disability, so he counts as a service dog. The ADA definition doesn’t include any particular behavioral standards (although of course most service dogs *are* trained to be very calm and quiet while working)

      1. MigraineMonth*

        It sounds like previously the dog was almost exclusively positioned on the lap or in a sling, so the new training would have been sitting next to LW rather on their lap.

    4. L. Miller*

      This was exactly my thought as well. Also I don’t think a service dog would be carried.

      I’m not saying the dog doesn’t help the LW. Obviously they feel it does.

      But LW might be better off connecting with an organization that is legitimate service dog group who could match them with a dog specifically trained for their needs in ways they may not realize are possible.

      1. GythaOgden*

        There are probably a whole range of support animals that have different abilities and help in different ways that don’t fit the stereotype of a guide dog. Like disabled people themselves, ESAs come in all different shapes and sizes and OP’s happens to be trained to fulfil a different purpose than what you’re used to.

      2. Mo*

        A legally protected service dog is a dog that performs at least one task to assist the handler with a disability. That’s literally it. Some service dogs are carried, like diabetes alert dogs that smell their handler’s breath to identify dangerous blood sugar levels. I would trust OP that their dog needs to be carried to adequately perform their task with.

      3. AngryOctopus*

        A dog trained to alert you to panic attacks certainly can be carried, and it might even be BETTER for the LW to carry the dog for the alerts. So please don’t doubt the LW like that, especially when you don’t know/recall what the LW has the service dog for anyway.

      4. MigraineMonth*

        I think most people hear “service dog” and think “seeing-eye dog”. Seeing-eye dogs are trained in very particular ways to assist people with blindness, but there are actually a huge number of ways that dogs can be legitimate service dogs (not emotional-support dogs) but look and act very differently from seeing-eye dogs.

        A dog (or other animal) that detects seizures, blood sugar episodes or panic attacks doesn’t need to be of the size and temperament you expect, and assuming otherwise ends up in the kind of ridiculous situation as in the letter where the head of HR told the LW that her service dog wasn’t big enough to count.

        1. KeepingAnon*

          I actually have several friends/family who have been involved in training service animals through various organizations. These dogs were being trained for seizure detection, blood sugar monitoring, and mental health management.

          While you’re right that people shouldn’t generalize about size/breed (labs are certainly the most common, but not the only type of dogs being trained for these purposes!), you’re wrong about the temperament. There is an practically 0% chance any reputable service dog organization would allow a dog to graduate that couldn’t sit still and quiet for an interview-length amount of time, regardless of the purpose the dog was expecting to serve. These were the calmest, most well-behaved dogs I have ever met in my life, and that was a universal constant across multiple, unaffiliated organizations, and for dogs being trained for a variety of purposes.

          That doesn’t mean LW1’s dog can’t be extremely helpful to them of course! But unlikely to be an officially trained service dog.

          1. Florence Reese*

            The thing is, though, that there’s no standard for an “official” service dog. There are orgs that train dogs and profess to be the “standard” but there is, legally, no standard beyond a dog (or miniature horse) who consistently performs disability-related tasks for a handler. There is absolutely no requirement to go through one of those orgs to train a service dog; it’s perfectly fine to do it yourself; the only sticky legal issue is if the dog is being disruptive *in public*. This dog is at home so that’s not relevant here.

            I can’t imagine how hurtful it is for this LW to share an update, including information about how much they’re currently struggling, and to see so many responses ripping apart the validity of their life and their service dog. It’s callous.

            1. clever but no longer culturally relevant screenname*

              I couldn’t agree more, Florence. These folks are pretending to be informed but all they’re doing is perpetuating misinformation that harms disabled people. They are gatekeeping accommodations.

              Service animals must be trained to perform a task that aids or interrupts a disability. There is no requirement that they be trained by some self-proclaimed official organization. Disabled people can and do train their own service animals.

              There are lots of organizations that train service animals to do many different tasks. Many of them provide a valuable service for people who might not have the skill or ability to train their own service animals. But they can also create huge financial or social barriers to accommodation, as exemplified here. While some offer financial assistance, and a very few provide animals free of charge, overwhelmingly, they charge exceptional prices for trained service animals. People often don’t know that service animals are not covered by insurance. Meanwhile, a disabled person can wander down to the local shelter on Free Pitbull Day and find a fantastic dog that suits their life and train them to do the task they need, regardless of other people’s opinions on their life and that task.

              Further, LW spent a day training the dog to sit still. A day isn’t a long time to train a new skill. In fact, it’s really quick if the dog can cement that skill in a single day. A stay typically takes a week or two of training for most adult dogs to perform consistently. In short, none of this indicates the dog is hard to train or ill-behaved. It does indicate LW used her time on the dog, managing her anxiety about negative perception of the dog (perfectly demonstrated here by the nonsense commenters feel justified in spreading) and probably avoiding the anxiety of preparing for the interview questions. That kinda suggests the dog is FANTASTIC at its job. Plus, while service animals need to be non-disruptive in public, if a fidgety dog is always carried, then it isn’t disruptive. Leaving aside that training to sit pretty during an interview does not indicate that this dog is particularly boisterous, a service dog that best performs its task when carried, such as one that needs to sense subtle emotional cues or scent breath changes, might be well served by being a little rowdy if put down, essentially alerting that they need to be held by their person.

              Our job as disabled people is to make our lives livable, not to perform to some arbitrary social standard created by others. That includes the temperaments and behavior of our service animals.

              1. Gemstones*

                But a service dog would already know sit and stay. I’m just confused why the LW needed to teach such a basic skill.

                1. Willow Pillow*

                  In this particular case, the dog’s job is to alert LW if her anxiety is heightened. Job interviews are typically going to cause anxiety, so the dog’s normal behaviour might be counterproductive. Regardless, you being confused does not obligate LW to provide clarification. Your understanding (or lack thereof) has zero bearing on her circumstances.

      5. Hiot3fy6 huy*

        People assume it’s easy to connect up to get a service dog and I know here at least in the bay area. It’s very difficult. There are waiting lists of over two years even even for those with verifiable obvious disabilities.

    5. Kit*

      Sitting quietly is a basic part of being a service dog for some services. This dog is helping for anxiety and panic attacks, and needed to be trained for a non-standard posture (sitting rather than being in a sling) in a situation where his human is feeling some degree of anxiety (a job interview). Specific training for this circumstance is exactly what any animal would need if they’re as highly attuned to their human’s stress level as a genuine service animal should be.

      1. Sorrischian*

        I also got the sense that the focus on that training maybe wasn’t so much a reflection of the dog’s abilities as it was of LW’s interview anxiety. They say they neglected other aspects of interview prep, which makes me think they got fixated on Getting This One Thing Just Right whether it was a critical concern or not.
        And I don’t at all mean this as a judgment of the letter writer, it’s a perfectly understandable way for anxiety to trip you up.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Yes! They were trying to train the dog to help them in a stressful situation where the dog would be in a non-standard (for it) position. In working to make sure they wouldn’t trigger a panic attack in the interview, they accidentally neglected the interview. Now they realize, so they can work on interview prep more when they’re ready to get out there again.

    6. StressedButOkay*

      It’s also, I don’t think, relevant to this particular issue, though. I know this tends to be a hot topic issue but this feels like armchair diagnosing.

    7. Beth*

      We know OP invested time and energy in making a bowtie for their service dog even though that’s definitely not a need for an interview. They were clearly anxious about bringing the dog along and fixated on addressing that anxiety over more standard interview prep. I wouldn’t be surprised if the time and energy they invested in training the dog was also more about addressing their anxiety than about the dog actually needing it. (If so, OP, no shame! Next time you’re interviewing, you’ll know your dog is ready to go, and hopefully will be able to focus more on prepping for the content of the interview.)

    8. Sleepiest Girl Out Here*

      My rule of thumb with accommodations is that person who needs the accommodation is always the expert on what accommodation they need.

      1. Gemstones*

        I’m not sure that’s always the case. People can know what it feels like to have anxiety but not be the best judge of how to handle it…this OP spent more time making a bowtie for the dog than prepping for the interview, which just exacerbated their anxiety.

        1. Astor*

          In my experience, I am not always right about what accommodations I need, but I am always more of an expert than an outside observer. My best shot at getting the accommodations right is either:
          * Working with someone who is an expert in the field, who considers me an expert in my own experiences, and who arranges for an iterative process.
          * Letting me determine my own accommodations

          Do I sometimes make the wrong judgement calls and have to re-calibrate later? Of course! But so does a good medical team for anything that’s complicated! Those are so much easier to fix than when someone else enforces “accommodations” where they’ve decided what’s best for me and there’s no room for change. And truthfully, that’s going to be true for almost all adults, whether we have physical, mental, or emotional needs that are considered outside of the norm.

          For example, your perspective sounds that since the LW’s plans didn’t work immediately (and the problems they had with their interview wasn’t even the accommodations themselves) then they shouldn’t be trusted to determine what accommodations they need? But my perspective is recognizing that their difficulties with preparing for this interview has given them more expertise in determining what accommodations work for them so that they can eventually get it right.

    9. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      I agree with most of the people above that this was probably more about LW1’s anxiety around the interview rather than the dog’s inability to sit quietly. However, if the dog is trained to alert/manage LW1’s anxiety, the dog doing his job may mean the dog is supposed to NOT be quiet or that he is supposed to interact with LW1 in some way. If LW1 was nervous about the interview it may be possible the dog was essentially trying to do his job, but under the circumstances it was exactly what LW1 did NOT want him to do and it was (ironically) producing more anxiety.

      1. Colorado*

        I think the bow tie was a bad idea, honestly. A dog with a bow tie screams “cute pet” not “professional” or “service animal.” A vest would have been better.

  7. Single parent*

    i pause to consider the emotional tone of the word “Mommy” vs. “mom” “parent” or “mother.”

    I cringe at being referred to by others as “Daddy,” and that’s even without living with constant sexism. I think “Mommy” in this context is a kind of underhanded slight that reduces mothers to being one-dimensional caregivers, intentional or not.

    I never heard anyone describe themselves as “a wife and mommy” or “a single daddy” etc.

    the word choice in this letter feels a bit loaded but maybe it’s just me.

    1. Nicosloanica*

      Not to the point of the letter but someone I know, who must forever remain nameless, referred to THEMSELVES as “wifey” and just I about died.

    2. Rondeaux*

      I think that’s a little ungenerous… These groups are often called “mommy and me” or something similar. Plus it doesn’t really seem relevant to the letter

      1. Shiara*

        This may be regional, but my experience is that “mommy and me” is usually used to refer to classes primarily directed at the children that parents participate in too (dance, music, yoga, etc). Most Mother or parenthood support/play groups I know of don’t use mommy in the title, although I’m sure they exist.

    3. Prismatic Garnet*

      A lot of these groups title themselves out on purpose, quite possibly because when you actually have a toddler addressing you as mommy, you enjoy that term in that context.

      Obviously, it’s condescending if someone else refers to a woman as mommy to demean her parenting status, but it’s honestly not that hard to realize that there are contexts in which that word is not a negative. The context of a group specifically for women with very small children is one of them.

  8. Danish*

    “Mommy group” is something I’ve heard in the media but i also hate it. How can we once again make all activities female people do sound infantile and silly?

    1. Enough*

      What would you call a group of women who are all mothers who get together regularly to support each other?

      1. Nicosloanica*

        Why can’t it be a parents group or a moms group or a mothers group? Mommy is deliberately initializing because it’s babytalk. That said, if that’s the term they use for themselves I’m willing to butt out.

    2. AvocadoQueen*

      Many groups call themselves mommy groups. It’s a perfectly fine thing to self identify as!

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Okay, I don’t care for this terminology, either, but very often that is what they call themselves, and at least some of them are pretty focused on the “mother” part as opposed to a generalized “parent” part. Not my scene, even if I had kids, but their call.

    4. turquoisecow*

      Why can’t women who are mothers decide what they want to call their own groups? I see a lot of people here complaining about “mommy,” but I don’t think it’s fair to assume the members of that group are happy to be called a “mommy” and are okay with their group being called that.

  9. Engineer*

    I have heard someone describe herself as a “wife and mommy” but a) she had 3 kids under 3 at the time and b) very much fell into tradwife ideology. Which is to say, I agree that calling it a Mommys Group feels particularly belittling – especially if that’s not what the group calls themselves.

    1. Engineer*

      *sigh* This was a reply to another comment, but it looks like it got zapped in the time it toom to write this.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      Plenty of mommy groups do embrace that terminology, though, and that’s their choice. It might very well have been the case with this group, and in any case we’re not supposed to nitpick LW language.

      In contrast, I was ready to start a war when I discovered that my company’s workgroup on best practices to reduce maternal mortality was named “Saving Mommies”. Hell no.

  10. Falling Diphthong*

    OP4, it seems like you are perceiving yourself as being stuck and having no choices, when you do in fact have choices. I suspect looking back in 10 years you will see paths around you that are now invisible because you are struggling. (As others have said, go back to therapy. Maybe a different therapy, though.)

    Really solid advice on here from someone about when you are genuinely stuck: Frame continuing to do the thing as a choice you make each day, for solid reasons, rather than an immutable truth of the universe that you are powerless to alter. e.g. You go to work at the sucky place because you don’t have enough saved up to quit without notice, or because you need to finish a medical treatment that is covered by their insurance.

    Even when you are telling yourself that no change is possible, it’s highly likely that fate will wallop you from outside with a change in circumstances anyhow. If you’re unhappy, you might as well provide your own wallop.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I learned the term Pyrrhic Victory in the comments here.
      “is a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat.”
      Instead of building you up to take over the company by embracing your talents and interests, teaching you to lead they wore you down into an overwhelmed man.
      But you are working for the company.
      From your letter, they seem unreasonable. (This is my company. Do what I need i need you to do. No wuestions.)
      Maybe they are.
      But maybe they would be open to you saying what you need and what you want to stay in f you could keep it strictly about the business. They don’t like feelings? (the no therapy nonsense) Don’t give them any. Tell about the job.
      Here’s to hoping they listen.
      Good luck to you all.

  11. Keymaster in absentia*

    Update 1: returning to job searching after a long period off due to health reasons is really hard and I want to give you a supportive hug over IP for taking the first step. Job interviews are one of those skills you can lose over a long period out of work.

    I spent several years out of work after a major health incident and my first few interviews were a darn disaster. Nearly broke down when one interviewer prodded deeper into why I’d been off for so long.

    If you don’t want to return to the search that’s okay, I totally understand. But if you feel up to giving it another go at some point I suggest something like 1) read the archives here, search for interview advice and 2) do something that beefs up your confidence before applying/interviewing. I’ve got a sword that I carry round the house pretending I’m Xena. Xena with a walking stick but Xena nonetheless.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Same here. I tried a few times, then did first a vocational certification (I’m technically an accounting technician but only very technically) and then a Masters, and by the time I had those papers I was finally able to prove to myself I had the focus and consistency to be useful to an employer. I didn’t need AAM to get that job but I did when I finally decided to move on 2 years ago, and even then I had to remould myself yet again.

      Everything has to go at OP1’s own pace, but we’re here when you’re ready for us. This is an immensely supportive community and I credit AAM with learning how to describe myself and what I’ve done and drag stuff out of my memory to be able to prove to others what I can do.

      Best of luck and keep us in mind.

      1. ferrina*

        Everything has to go at OP1’s own pace, but we’re here when you’re ready for us.

        Seconding. It can be a scary journey and you need to go at the timing that works for you. But we’re here if you want us.

        1. Keymaster in absentia*

          Definitely agreeing. There’s been times when I’ve realised I couldn’t handle returning to work and I’d like to reassure anyone in that situation that while you might feel like a failure you’re in fact not.

          Takes a huge amount of inner knowledge and strength to admit that actually no, you can’t handle this right now.

    2. UKDancer*

      I love the image of Xena with cane!

      I shimmy before and interview. I put my coin belt on and really let rip and make the coins jangle to Egyptian pop music. It’s something my bellydance teacher advised. It makes me feel confident and powerful. . Obviously if I’m doing a face to face interview I do it in the toilets beforehand.

  12. Irish Teacher.*

    LW4, I really want to stress that you are an adult and do not need your parents’ (or family’s or anybody’s really) permission to go to therapy or to change your job. I know it’s not always that simple and families can have more control over people than they are really entitled to, but the way you write it, it sounds like you just assume it is their decision and you have to do what they say.

    You can go to therapy even if your family tells you not to. You can apply for other jobs and just tell your dad you are leaving. You don’t even have to tell your family you are going to therapy.

    I know that this might be more difficult if you live with them and they want to know where you are going and that if you are earning little it may not be immediately possible to move out, but the language you are using concerns me. It sounds like you are resigned to the idea that they call the shots.

    1. Prismatic Garnet*

      Agree, if it helps, OP4, at least start adding in your mind an extra sentence into your assessment of what’s going on in your life: you talk about what your family does, but don’t forget to then state your response, because you do have choices in your response.

      So, for example, “My family told me to stop seeking therapy” becomes “My family told me to stop seeking therapy, and I decided to comply.” Or “My family rebuffed my career plan idea” becomes “ my family rebuffed my career plan idea, so I decided not to pursue it for now.”

      This is not to make you feel victim – blamey, since clearly your family has a deeply unhealthy and very unusual amount of control over your life. But you can’t start to make choices that get you out of that situation until you can start to perceive that the choice is even there. Once you start conceptualizing your family’s pressure on you as some thing that you have the choice to comply with or resist, you will be able to perceive what chances you have to not just follow what they say, and to get out from under their thumb.

      Maybe temporarily you do still decide to go along with what they dictate in your life, strategically, in the service of a move you will make later. But knowing that you are doing so on purpose, and the service of eventually being able to live your own life, is much healthier than just thinking “My family said no and that’s the end.”

      And stop looping them in on your hopes and dreams! They are not supportive, and they should have no say in what you want to do.

      1. Mango Freak*

        This is very astute tbh. LW4 is writing as though it’s all a foregone conclusion–because their family has drilled it into their head that this is the case.

        I hope they “run away from home” very soon!!

  13. Loose Socks*

    I know this is not the same situation as L1, but my son has some extremely unusual symptoms for his first several years of life. Among them were what, to all appearances, was an allergy to extreme emotions. He would break out in hives if he cried too much, or got too angry, or, occasionally, too happy. Obviously this is terrible, but especially difficult for a baby/toddler. We already had several dogs (including an extremely calm Great Pyrenees) and a couple of cats, and he wasn’t interested. We even sat with a friend that had a trained anxiety dog, and it didn’t help him, he got frustrated with it.
    We were at a friend’s house once when he hurt himself, which triggered his hives. He couldn’t stop screaming because the hives were in his eyes. My friend hopped up, left the room, and came back with her large corn snake, and promptly plopped it in his lap. He INSTANTLY calmed down, like he was in a trance.
    We now have two emotional support ball pythons. They fit easily in a sling under his shirt and he can carry them around (one at a time) as needed. Most of the time people don’t notice.

    1. pope suburban*

      That is wildly interesting to me, the effect that snakes have in this case. I wonder what about them is beneficial, from a how-do-brains-work perspective, and I am happy that your son has found a way to manage his condition.

      1. Liz W.*

        I did, too!
        Calm, compact animal with minimal tactile interaction (cool, smooth skin instead of warm and fluffy) that would not aggravate the hives.

      2. SpaceySteph*

        I had a pet snake as a teen and I definitely remember having a calming feeling from wearing it like a scarf. A lot of great sensory stuff there from the weight to the smoothness to how they move along your body.

    2. Annisele*

      I’m glad you found something that helps your son, but I’m astounded that your friend even thought to put a corn snake a child’s lap. My reaction to that as a child would have involved much panicking – from me, from the snake (because I’d probably have picked it up and thrown it somewhere), and from all the adults involved.
      I don’t have any statistics on this, but I suspect it’s far more common to be afraid of snakes than to go into a calm trance when you see them. I’d be very curious as to whether other people with your son’s medical conditions are more like me or like him in their response to snakes.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        I’m a huge fan of snakes and used to have them, and I agree with you; friend took a HUGE risk, because if the child had the opposite/”normal” reaction to Sudden Surprise Snake…yeah.

        1. Observer*

          because if the child had the opposite/”normal” reaction to Sudden Surprise Snake…

          On the other hand, people already knew that this kid reacts the opposite / “not normally” to most animals, so I see why it might make sense to try.

          I have no idea whether throwing the snake across the room might do to the snake, though, so I don’t know how much of a risk the friend was taking.

          1. Dr. Rebecca*

            It could severely hurt or kill the snake to be thrown like that. It could damage both snake and child if, instead of throwing, they gripped the snake tightly–and by damage to the child I mean biting or constriction around any available body part. Pet snakes are usually pretty docile, but they’re not domesticated. They can, and will, react out of self-preservation and instinct, and should not be handled by people who aren’t used to them, let alone people who are already panicking/panic-prone.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        It’s possible that the kid had interacted with the snake when he had been at the house before and the friend knew the kid really liked the snake. Given that it’s a friend of the child’s parent, it’s likely the kid had been at the house many times and was familiar with her pet.

        I could well imagine that if a kid really liked a particular animal, the owner bringing that animal to them when they were upset. If this were the first time they met the snake, then yeah, that is a more unusual reaction from the friend.

      3. Parsssellap*

        My favorite reptile I ever interacted with was a corn snake. I understand they can be spicy, but the one my friend had was downright cuddly– a real sweetheart.

      4. Prismatic Garnet*

        I’d agree, I’d be worried for the snake’s safety to put it in the lap of someone unexpectedly, especially a kid who might not be gentle.

      5. Loose Socks*

        I added a comment addressing some questions, but I also wanted to make sure you knew that my son had been around snakes a lot before this point and was also an extremely calm toddler. I’m not just being one of those “my children are angels” parents, we were actually a little concerned by his lack of energy and the fact that he just didn’t get hyper the way other kids did. He did have several health issues at the time that may have caused that, but suffice to say that even when he was completely hysterical, he did not flail around, hit, kick, or do anything remotely dangerous to anyone, snake or human. He was just completely inconsolable and covered him hives.

    3. Lady_Lessa*

      I got curious to see what they looked like, and they are some gorgeous snakes. Glad that your son found something that helped him calm down.

      1. GythaOgden*

        He could also tell future employers how he learned python at an early age. Just…not that kind of Python. (And I hope he called it Monty.)

    4. GythaOgden*

      That sounds nightmarish — the hives, not the snakes. The snakes sound fabulous — I was one of the only ones to brave touching one when our infant school class was given a chance to handle them, and I loved their silky smooth texture; as autistic, texture for me can make or break relationships with things and snake skin is one of those things that is lovely to touch — obviously only on the back of living snake. They are beautiful and much maligned animals and deserve better than what we’ve made them out to be.

      On the broader topic of service animals, here was an amazing article about an autistic guy who wore his cat to the supermarket. People tried to ban him from the shop — but crucially, there is an exemption for guide dogs in law and the guy quite rightly insisted his cat fell under that definition.

      I’d have been a bit concerned if he’d allowed it to roam free and was untrained, but it sat patiently on his shoulder and gave him the reassurance he needed to do his own shopping. There are going to be as many kinds of animal companions as there are people who need them, and we as a society need to be more open to that need.

    5. Observer*

      We now have two emotional support ball pythons.

      I have to admit that this sounds bizarre. But also *fascinating*. I wonder why the snakes work but not “regular” animals?

      Regardless, I am so glad that you found something that works! How has this worked in terms of school, etc?

      Has anyone been able to figure out why the emotional reaction triggers hives? Because I can imagine that there are going to be situations where support animals are not all that viable.

    6. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      Legit question: does he (or you, can’t tell how old your son is) let people know he has a snake on him? I have to imagine it would be alarming if suddenly someone saw a snake ON your child–like they would assume this was NOT intentional and that he might be in danger?

      But I cannot imagine walking around being like “FYI there is a python under my shirt” would work out. If a service dog gets attention, I would assume people would also be very curious about your son’s support snake (Heck, I am intrigued by how the sling is designed!) and it would be a lot of him having to explain a snake that most people wouldn’t have noticed anyway!

      1. aqua*

        maybe this is just because I’m from the UK but if I saw someone with a snake on them I’d assume it was there on purpose unless they were yelling “oh no help I’m being attacked by a snake” or similar

        1. bamcheeks*

          Also from the UK, and my first assumption would be that I’d accidentally wandered into His Dark Materials.

          1. Annisele*

            Another Brit – I think I’d assume I was hallucinating. I have never seen a snake that wasn’t either on video or behind glass.

      2. Loose Socks*

        The sling is like a regular baby sling, just with a bit of extra fabric to make a “pouch” in the middle. The snake generally stays pretty curled up, they feel more secure when they are in a dark, almost cramped, space. He can slither out whenever he wants, he just usually stays in there when we’re out and about. Many times, though, they slither out and wrap around his body. They also prefer to be kept warm, so body temp is perfect for them. The snakes actually spend a majority of the day at home, we only take them out with us when we are going someplace that may be stressful, like Costco, and we only take one at a time, alternating which one goes. We have a male and a female, the female is bigger, but both are around 4 feet long.

    7. Willow Pillow*

      This might be the most heartwarming thing I’ve read all day! I have a corn snake and he’s super chill. I also have a blue tongue skink, who is snake-like – he’ll happily chill in a pocket too.

    8. Loose Socks*

      There’s several questions, so I’ll answer a few of them.
      1) He had been around snakes and held snakes before. He was nearly one at the time, and she would never have let a hysterical one-year-old that had never held a snake before touch her corn snake. He was an extraordinarily calm toddler, and even at that moment he wasn’t hitting or kicking, he was just absolutely inconsolable.
      2) He is now 7. He doesn’t bring his snakes to school because they aren’t legal service animals. His allergy has also gotten much more manageable with age. While he still gets rashes, they aren’t as bad as the hives and he doesn’t get upset as often as he did as a baby/ toddler.
      3) We don’t normally bother telling anyone he has a snake under his clothes. It’s winter now and he’s usually wearing a coat, so you can’t even see a lump, but we’ve found that people are intensely uncomfortable with snakes, and it usually stays pretty still anyway, so most of the time people just don’t know.
      4) He is also allergic to sunlight and heat, his allergist doesn’t believe it’s a true “allergy”, but because there are direct triggers that result in a histamine reaction, it’s just easier to call it that. We had him on immunosuppressants for about a year, but that caused a lot of other issues. Interestingly, we’ve discovered that vitamin D greatly decreased the severity of the reactions. He also had minor alopecia, which has completely resolved with vitamin D supplements. No idea if it’s related to his allergies, but being vitamin D deficient does have some very strange ways of appearing, and since he was allergic to sunlight (still is, but now just gets rashes rather than hives), we probably bundles a lot of those symptoms in with his allergies, not realizing two separate things were going on.

      In general I wouldn’t recommend tossing a snake at someone having a panic attack, but if you struggle with panic or anxiety and you don’t have a fear of snakes, I definitely recommend seeing if they help. We chose ball pythons because they don’t get massive, they are extremely docile, and fairly low-maintenance once you get the hang of what they need. I also recommend making sure you have access to a vet that can treat them before rushing out to get one.

  14. GythaOgden*

    #1 Oh how frustrating. Do you think having a practice run has helped or was it really just too stressful to contemplate starting again? It took me a long time while underemployed to get up the courage to interview again — I’d written myself off as someone who was going to quietly moulder away, and I had to regain the confidence to start looking again and silence the fear that a new employer wasn’t going to be supportive of my needs as an autistic employee. I squared that circle and have found that moving upwards didn’t have to involve moving out. Ultimately, no-one else could convince me that I was ready, though — I had to feel it for myself.

    In your case, so long as your needs are taken care of, you need to go at your own pace. Give your little dog a belly rub and a treat from me, and accept my hope that you prosper in whatever way suits you in the future. The important thing is that you get to decide when it feels right for you to start looking again, and I wish you a lot of good luck when that happens — and in the mean time take care of yourself.

  15. BellyButton*

    #2 took an unexpected turn! I guess LW was lucky that the mommy group didn’t start holding up “adulterer” signs. Yikes.

    1. Catherine the Mediocre*

      I’m just picturing them typing “Shame. Shame. Shame.” into the meeting chat. That was wild update and I’m on board

  16. NotARealManager*

    Lw4 – It is so hard to break the hold family can have over us and we sometimes can’t recognize when they’re being unreasonable. Let me join the chorus and say “your family is being unreasonable”. The jobs you are doing are easily 50-120k per year jobs depending on what exactly the scope of work is (and location of the company). Your dad is having you do it because he doesn’t want to pay someone who will insist on that wage and he’s keeping you there by undermining your confidence in your abilities.

    After 18, it’s up to your parents to maintain a good relationship with you as a fully-fledged and independent human. You do not owe them just because they are your parents. If you’re still working for $16 an hour, go do that at somewhere else without the family ties while you simultaneously skill up outside of their presence and land a better gig.

    1. BellyButton*

      “After 18, it’s up to your parents to maintain a good relationship with you as a fully-fledged and independent human. You do not owe them just because they are your parents”

      THIS! When I let go of what they wanted and focused on what I wanted/needed in relationships, everything in my life got better.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I am wondering if they are also using food and lodging to keep OP stuck. It is probably more than possible to get an equivalent paid job (I completely agree that this is the reason dad is exploiting OP), but it’s tricky to get a decent roof over your head when in low paid jobs. It’s definitely, definitely worth starting an emergency “move out” fund for, and I wonder if that’s what “hunker down” means. If so, OPs Safety Plan should include an information diet; the family don’t get to know about therapy, or future plans, or anything much of anything except the weather. Scarier than making rent is the idea of cutting off your birthright support group and going it completely alone. Captain Awkward has some great articles on maintaining healthy boundaries, and possibly even a relationship with a controlling family.

    3. Beatrice Belladonna Eastwood*

      I’m thinking the low wages are a manipulation tool on the part of the family to keep the LW in their grasp. LW, you deserve so much better. Please keep going to therapy and extricate yourself from this situation, even if it takes awhile.

      1. Orv*

        Agreed. I’ve known families that worked to keep adult children financially dependent so they couldn’t leave. It can be ugly.

  17. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, sorry to hear your experience of interviewing/applying for jobs didn’t go well. I will just say that getting a job takes time for virtually everybody.

    Of course, you know best about when you are ready to return to work, but I just wanted to say that getting an interview from two applications is very impressive. I doubt they were interviewing 50% of the candidates.

  18. BellyButton*

    #4 I could feel your discouragement and resignation in your original letter and the update. I am sorry you feel stuck. Easier said than done- but try to remember that you don’t need your parents buy in to do anything you want. If you need their financial support to accomplish things, well that can change too. Student loans suck, but sometimes that is the only way. Apply for other jobs, show him what a safety manager makes at other places.

    You can get yourself out of this and I think returning to therapy would be a good first step. Good luck!

  19. NotARealManager*

    LW1 – I don’t think the optics are bad at all. If a candidate said to me ahead of time “By the way, I have a service dog that performs their duties from a sling I wear”, I would not question it on the day of the interview. However, if you just showed up like that, I would be taken aback. I think you just need to give some notice and then don’t worry about it.

    Also, my first interview after COVID lockdown was a garbage fire. In part because of my preparation, in part because of *their* preparation and they didn’t exactly know what the role duties were, in part because one of the interviewers actively disliked me for reasons I could never discern (I was interviewing internally), and in part because the other interviewer was leaving the company the next week and just didn’t care. All that’s to say: there are many factors in job searching in which you are only one. I hope you don’t stay discouraged too long!

  20. MEHSquared*

    All of this! I really feel for you, OP#4. It can be really hard to get unstuck from the notion that you have to get your family’s buy-in for the choices you make. Their disapproval can feel like a literal barrier you can’t cross. But you can. They may be upset/mad at you, but hopefully, they can’t physically stop you.

    There are online mental health counseling websites like better health (dotcom). They are well-rated and tagged as affordable. Plus, a plethora of excellent advice from the other commenters. We’re all rooting for you.

    1. MEHSquared*

      This was in reply to BellyButton’s comment above, but really, it could be added to any of the other comments for OP#4.

    2. Katie Impact*

      I think sooner rather than later, LW4 needs to take an inventory of exactly what leverage their family has over them and exactly what they need to do in order to get out from under that. I’ve known someone in a similar situation that unfortunately ended in their family taking them to Saudi Arabia, at which point they really did have no options since their family could do whatever they wanted and the Saudi government didn’t care. I can only hope that LW4’s situation isn’t in danger of escalating in a similar way.

  21. Please Seek Your Independence*

    LW4: GO TO THERAPY AND STOP TELLING YOUR RELATIVES THAT YOU’RE DOING SO. You are the target of massive and unhealthy control by them, and you absolutely can live a satisfying life — one that includes healthy boundaries against them.

    I understand that the preceding paragraph probably fills you with great anxiety, but that’s because you’ve been conditioned to rely on them and to 100% doubt yourself. Your family is doing to you what an abusive person does to a romantic partner: Exerting control over your professional life and income (so you have no escape route), and exerting control when you seek outside counsel so you can establish healthy boundaries that enable you to do what’s right for *you*, not them.

    This is not going to stop when your father retires. You’re going to have to decide whether you’re willing to sacrifice your entire life to their needs / desires / whims. I hope you won’t, because you CAN change and set boundaries — and I say this as someone who grew up in a similarly controlling and destructive family. (This isn’t what love looks like. Love = wanting the best for the person you love, and creating an environment in which they are strengthened to seek that.)

    Do you have any friends from college whom you can talk to and rely on, to gather strength so you can return to therapy and start erecting boundaries? If you live with your family, can you move out? (Do you have enough money to do that, even if it means being someone’s housemate? If you have too little money, do you have a friend who will let you crash at their place?)

    Once you’re living elsewhere, please get whatever job you can (so you have income) and please consider going no-contact with your family while you undergo therapy and learn how to set AND MAINTAIN boundaries (if you continue to interact with your family, they will *up* their game in an effort to keep their control over you).

    I went no-contact in my early 30s, which is also when I switched careers. With regard to family, I did interact with them somewhat over the years — after I had firm boundaries in place. With regard to career, by 47 I was working at a prestigious national company, one of the leaders in my field. You can do this!

  22. Observer*

    #2 – Mommy group. That’s such a wild update.

    Boo on the colleague. It sounds pretty gross. But I really don’t understand why the whole group came to the meeting to support is wife?

    In any case, it sounds like something good came of it, since it seems to have been somewhat of a catalyst for a better system.

  23. Someone Online*

    LW2 was getting eviscerated in the original comment section, but it turns out she was correctly picking up on something weird happening. Just a reminder that we really should give letter writers some benefit of the doubt.

    1. MidwesternEnnui*

      Yeah, I just took a look at the comments section which contains a lot of “how dare you keep MOTHERS from LEARNING” fanfic and, well…that was sure not what was happening, and I don’t think the original letter implied it either.

    2. Yeah...*

      The comments noting the “presence of women” and “rights” and “responsibilities” was something.

      It was almost 1,000 comments.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      People completely forget to listen to the instincts of the person on the ground. We readers only get the most pertinent facts that we all know how use to make conscious decisions. Instincts and unconscious impressions are built on your history of interactions with a certain person, or somehow knowing the unknowable factor that the mum attendees all had a very specific agenda and energy during the presentation.

    4. Jackalope*

      It’s true that there was apparently something else going on under the surface. But it’s also true that saying that the presence of the women and children at the talk was “distracting at best and unprofessional at worst” was an insulting turn of phrase. Especially given the fact that this was during the pandemic when many parents had their children with them 24/7, and given that many mothers had such a hit to their careers when this all went down, the idea of considering “women and children” to be “distracting…. and unprofessional” was super frustrating.

      (I’ll stop myself there so as not to retrigger the whole discussion.)

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        Ooh I agree with both perspectives here! The original phrase “distracting and unprofessional” is BOTH insulting/frustrating AND, in this specific case, kind of an accurate observation triggered by the OP’s spidey-sense. The wronged wife & her friends kind of did, in a low key way, show up to distract the adulterous professor from his professional duties and refocus his attention on his non-work relationships, so I can believe they brought that energy to the zoom.

    5. Dr. Hyphem*

      I remember reading through all of the comments (I missed the commenting window though), and it felt weird to me that no one noticed that OP knew the women were in the mom group together because it was a small community, and she knew at least some of the people, so she knew that was the connection

      Because my initial read on the letter was: “This group of people, who I know enough about to know do not share this interest, seem to have made this event an activity for their group, inexplicably, which feels kind of weird.” With an added side of “I’m uncomfortable that there are a lot of small children when discussing a topic that doesn’t seem to be appropriate for small children.”

      I would have, of course, never predicted the exact reason, but she was picking up on something.

      1. Martin Blackwood*

        This is pretty similar to my read on it, too. “Why are these moms more interested in Colleague A’s survey of mental health problems in morticians than our mortician students.” which is a fair question. But I think there’s also some “No one is interested in A’s surveys, so anyone who is interested ‘doesn’t belong’ in the group of faculty and students watching” and its like, the OP is so caught up in these people who inexplicably are here they can’t bring themselves to not pay attention and makes it more of a Thing than it needs to be. Now, I personally don’t think this rises to advice column level issue, but different strokes.

        1. Martin Blackwood*

          (apologies to morticians and any commenters who would immediately clear their schedule for this event. I was aiming for a fake example that was clearly an important serious topic that wouldn’t necessarily be exciting to like, most people you’d grab off the street)

      2. Myrin*

        I just went back to the comments and am happy to see that I did notice that – my comment said “OP and all of these people live in the same “very small town” where she “know[s] the scene” (by which I assumed both the social and work-related scenes there might be […]). If she didn’t recognise any of the women from her university but at the same time recognised them as member’s of colleague’s wife’s circle, it’s not unreasonable to assume that she knows for a fact that none of the women are working for/studying at the university.” but of course someone immediately replied that that’s not necessarily the case and that I can’t know that and so on even though it was by far the most likely initial situation.

        You did phrase my original thought process much more elegantly and concisely, though!

        1. Dr. Hyphem*

          I must have missed your initial comment. It is weird that people were so stuck on their narrative that it didn’t warrant more discussion.

      3. MidwesternEnnui*

        Bingo. People were so quick to latch on to an imagined oppression they missed (or ignored) that the LW knew these people and her community well enough to know something weird was going on. She wanted advice on how to either prevent or mitigate that weirdness for future virtual event attendees and herself and instead got admonishment, based on zero evidence, for being an oppressive, misogynistic gatekeeper.

  24. Hazelfizz*

    LW4, do you have a smartphone with a password? Even if they pay the bill for now, look into self care apps as well. free meditations, or games that help you track mood or exercise.

    1. StephChi*

      LW4 actually should get a burner smart phone which they keep hidden from their family. They’re going to need it when they finally break free.

  25. Some Internet Rando*

    LW4 – Everyone here is hoping for the best for you.

    In controlling family dynamics it is not uncommon that there are implicit or explicit promises made about the future (e.g., you will take over the business one day, you are not being well paid now but this will pay off later). Please do not make decisions today based on promises that things will get better tomorrow. I have seen many people in similar family dynamics who stay in a bad situation only to find that they are not inheriting the business (I know of a situation where it was sold and the child got nothing) or the person in charge would never relinquish control or even sabotages the business.

    If your family cares about your well-being they would be valuing you and paying you well in the present (e.g., good wage, listening to your ideas, training you), not giving you promises for the future. I have a bad feeling that staying will not benefit you in the long run. Get out. Separate your work life from your family life. Separate your own life from your family of origin.

    I agree with everyone else that therapy could be helpful. There are many therapists who work virtually and could see you without your family knowing. The longer you stay the harder it will be to leave. Read about the sunk cost fallacy and consider leaving now.

    Please update us.

  26. vulturestalker*

    Alison, I just wanted to say that I love reading updates even when they aren’t necessarily awesome news (worse, or status quo, or “I took the advice but it didn’t work.” I don’t know if people proactively write in with them or if you have to reach out, but I just wanted to voice the opinion that they’re great.

  27. Hell in a Handbasket*

    This may be an unpopular opinion, but I wouldn’t put your service dog in a bowtie for interviews. It will make your dog come across as “cute pet” rather than “working dog”.

    1. CorgiDoc*

      I agree (as much as I love a good dog in a bow tie). Most service dog users take their dog’s working time very seriously (as they should) and I would expect the dog to only be wearing its harness/vest and anything else it needs to do its job safely and effectively (for instance some service dogs wear boots/shoes to protect their paws from dirt/debris/ice/hot sidewalk/etc). I typically feel that we should believe someone when they say their dog is a service dog as we don’t have all the facts but the bow tie would make me raise my eyebrow a little bit.

    2. The stranger*

      Yes I agree. As an interviewer, I would find it quite strange, since I’m not interviewing the dog and they don’t need to look professional. It would actually distract me more than just seeing the dog there.
      I would wonder whether the person I’m interviewing has a good grasp on working norms.

      1. watermelon fruitcake*

        I would wonder whether the person I’m interviewing has a good grasp on working norms.

        Based on the fact they, by their own admission, spent more time dressing the dog up and training the dog to perform (which makes me wonder why this service dog doesn’t know basic sit-stay-shh commands in the first place) than they did actually preparing for the interview, I don’t think you are wrong to wonder this.

        I find myself questioning whether we are doing a disservice to the LW because here we have a person who is ready, willing, and able to work but is pulling back from their job search because of a lost opportunity, whose lost opportunity is not because of the nature of their disability or their capacity to work, but because they have the wrong priorities when trying to navigate the professional world. And we’re not allowed to discuss the why because the “why” risks questioning the status of their service animal. But the fact is that the level of attachment to and emphasis on the dog is ultimately what hurt the LW’s interview performance and job chances. The problem isn’t the dog itself, but it certainly didn’t fly past the interviewers that the dog was wearing a bowtie while the candidate couldn’t answer a basic question about the company, which signals to the company that this person is not focused on the right things, that their dog is a distraction to themself, and they may carry that into their work.

        1. Anka*

          Hard agree. The dog would look cute, and distracting. It isn’t giving the sense that this is a working animal.

  28. Rosacolleti*

    #1 sorry to hear that the job hunt hasn’t been successful. I’ve been thinking a lot about your original post. If you had been successful in getting the role were you planning on working with your dog in the sling or on your lap or was it just necessary due to an interview being an extraordinarily stressful situation?

    I think if it were a role you could do with a dog pretty much attached to you, having it like that in an interview would be less of a concern.

    A role where this would impede your ability to work, say using a keyboard, would more problematic for me if I was interviewing you. I’d suggest applying for roles where there is no question of having your dog so close would be an issue.
    Good Luck for when you feel ready to look again.

  29. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 OP1 Well done on training your dog. Sounds like you need more interview practice yourself, so I suggest you prep your answers and then ask friends to do mock interviews, until you feel ready to try the real thing again.

    For real interviews, if you notify them ahead of time that you’ll have a service dog on your knee for a medical issue, then no decent workplace would hold that against you. And as you say, you wouldn’t want to work somewhere that rejects you for a service dog.

    I hope you feel able to resume applications soon or at least to practice. Good luck with your job search!

  30. New Jack Karyn*

    LW4: All of the following assumes that you live with your family, and that you would like to break away from them to start your own career and your own life.

    If you bank at the same place as your family, open a new account at a different bank, and begin direct deposit there. (“Why? Oh, they had a deal where you get a little bonus for opening a new account!” If you are on their phone plan, get a cheap burner phone, maybe a pay as you go contract. Make duplicate accounts on your social media.

    Collect your important papers: birth certificate, passport, driver’s license/state ID card, etc. Keep them somewhere not in your house or car–a friend, if you have one outside your family who you trust. If not, get a safe deposit box at your new bank. Anything else small and important to you, stash there as well.

    Slowly put together a go-bag. A few changes of clothes, toiletries, a few snack bars, spare keys, spare glasses, spare chargers for phone/laptop. Anything you would be heartbroken to lose, that you didn’t put in a safe deposit box.

    Start spending time at the library. You are looking for a new job and a new living situation, and the library has private internet access. The library may also have workshops for polishing up a resume, or otherwise helpful topics. If you can safely couch-surf with friends for a month, consider doing so. Put out feelers with friends, post on your new (private) social media accounts, look for house shares and roommates; try to not move in with random strangers, as you don’t want to jump into another unpleasant living situation.

    Save up your dollars! Best case–you line up a new job and new housing close to the same time. Try to find a time when no one is home, round up a couple of friends, and go pack everything you can. Consider a storage unit if you have the new job before the housing, and can stay with friends for a few weeks in the interim.

    This seems really big! But you aren’t committing to anything by doing one of two of these things. You can take a baby step forward, then pause. See how it feels. You would be taking control of your own life–that can be scary! But the more you do it, the less scary it gets.

    There’s lots of us here pulling for you. Good luck!

    1. gyrfalcon17*

      Excellent advice! LW4, if you’re wondering “why a different bank?”, it’s so that family members can’t social-engineer their way into getting access to your account at the current bank where everyone knows them. This is especially true if you’ve had an account at the old bank that a family member had shared access to, eg if a parent opened it for/with you when you were under 18. It can be hard to be sure they’re off the account, so the easier and safer thing is to start a new account at a new bank.

      Best wishes to you.

  31. philmar*

    LW1 made a bowtie for their dog instead of preparing for the interview? That is such seriously skewed priorities that I would consider that a bullet dodged for the company.

    1. The stranger*

      That’s a harsh way of putting it. I might be wrong, but I think the OP might be quite young (at least when workplace norms are concerned) and they might not have in mind what interviewers and companies are looking for, or what image they might send when they interview next to a dog in a bowtie.

      The OP seems so focused on the dog being a distraction that they directed all their attention on him being cute or professional, when they would have been better served being very matter-of-fact about it and then redirecting the attention elsewhere (namely, on their accomplishments).

      OP, you should read Alison’s guide on interviewing, and try and not focus on the dog some much. It might seem strange to you, but a lot of people actually don’t care about dogs, so seeing one in a bowtie wouldn’t seem cute to them, and even for people who like them, they are not necessarily in “cute-mode” while conducting interviews. The less mentioned about him the better.

  32. K8T*

    Did LW1 not tell anyone in advance they’d be bringing a service animal? Even if the interview went well otherwise, I can’t imagine showing up with a dog in a sling out of the blue would be perceived well even after clarifying it’s their service animal.
    I’m hoping I missed that in there so please correct me if I’m wrong.

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