Since the pandemic, work conditions have been uniquely challenging as people navigate going back to working in an office or permanently working from home.
Parents are under a special kind of pressure, as they also have to reorient themselves to childcare services and in-person schooling conditions they may have not had in the past year.
But that hardly gives anyone the excuse to take advantage of someone else, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor justwantedtoexplore felt like she was being exploited as a woman because her male coworker repeatedly asked her to care for his children at the office.
But when she was criticized for trying to set boundaries, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if she was being selfish.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for complaining about my coworker bringing his toddlers to the office?”
The OP and her coworkers had to adapt to working in an office space again.
“My office reopened a few weeks ago.”
“One of my co-workers has 2 toddlers and he lost his wife during the pandemic.”
“They were a two-income family and he told me that they were struggling a bit financially, especially after all the medical bills prior to his wife’s death (may she rest in peace).”
“Due to pandemic, our office layout has changed and everyone required to come to office were given rooms to use instead of the cubicles we usually use.”
“When my coworker requested in the team meeting to be allowed to bring his kids to work, none of us objected. We were sure that he would get a big office and it would not disturb us.”
But the kids didn’t stay in the male coworker’s office like planned.
“I work in a male-dominated field, there are only 3 female employees, and I am the only one on our floor.”
“My coworker constantly leaves his children with me for hours. I feel like I am doing more babysitting than my actual job.”
“He doesn’t even ask permission; he just asks the kids to go to my office.”
“The kid just says, ‘My dad asked me and my brother to stay with you.'”
“When I confront him, he says that he is in a meeting or he needs to concentrate, etc.”
“For the sake of transparency, he has never lied to me. He does send his kids only when he has important meetings or deadlines.”
“He is more client-focused, so he has more meetings than me. My work is more internal and I rarely have meetings.”
“Also, his manager is known for taking it personally if people do not attend out-of-office activities, such as lunches or dinners or weekend potlucks, etc. (he labels such people as ‘poor team players’).”
The OP couldn’t do it anymore.
“But the last straw for me was when I found out that he left the kids with me and had gone out for lunch with a few of his office friends.”
“I went to HR (Human Resources) and complained about this.”
“He confronted me and told me that because of my complaint, he was told by HR that he can work from home if he wants, but he cannot bring his children to work anymore.”
“He said that the only reason he went to lunch was to gel more with the manager so that he is on their good side and to make sure that he will receive hikes/a bonus/a promotion.”
“He said that he would never be able to finish his work, hit his targets, and get bonuses if he works from home, and he is gonna lose a lot of money with babycare if he decides to come to the office (he is not wrong; it is very hard and slow to work from home. Work gets done much easier and faster from the office).”
“I requested him several times not to send his kids to my office unannounced. But I never warned him that I would go to HR if he kept it up.”
“Now, everyone (except my team and my manager) are p**sed at me for complaining against a struggling father and grieving widower.”
“AITA for directly going to HR?”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some were appalled by the sexism of the situation.
“It’s the sexist sense of entitlement that is outrageous to me.”
“This widower dumped his kids on his female coworker without even asking, without even telling – because he assumed that HE was worth more than the women at the workplace.”
“He didn’t care if OP’s work suffered – she’s supposed to take that L and do the unpaid work because she is a woman.”
“The coworkers are assholes that should be asked why they didn’t take care of the kids and why OP should have been the only one ‘helping’ out without ever being asked.”
“This kind of sexism needs to be called out. I’d be contacting a labor lawyer ASAP if I were OP because I’m pretty sure she’s going to get ostracised by her peers and penalized by her company for ‘not being a team player’ – when nobody else was willing to be that team player that she had been for so long.”
“OP already sacrificed and contributed enough. I would be making a record of all the instances when he dumped his kids on OP and securing witness testimonials by discussing what happened via messages so the coworkers ‘accidentally’ make themselves complicit in that sexist act.”
“Dumping the unpaid work on women is assumed a default setting by so many men and IT NEEDS TO STOP.” – Academic_Snow_7680
“You’re not a babysitting service. It’s especially insulting being left with the kids as a female. While his situation is unfortunate, it’s not your responsibility to fix.” – Lucyfiir
“And he is whining about missing out on promotions and getting on the good side of the boss… does he not care about OP getting any of that while he basically gets her to babysit his kids instead of working?”
“If he is such a family man who is willing to take his kids to the office and complain about babysitting, then he has to understand that he might not be able to ‘have it all’ and get wage hikes and promotions too.” – Ambry
Others agreed with Human Resources (HR) being involved.
“Tbh (to be honest), HR probably saw ‘man using female coworker for free childcare’ and panicked. Like, that is going to cause so many potential labor and legal issues, there is no way in h**l a competent HR department isn’t going to try and stop that situation occurring before it blows up.” – NewBromance
“I mean, this should be the guy’s clue that he had gone too far. HR likes to bury s**t, not fix it, so if he was actually contacted about a complaint he should know it looked really bad.” – brokeazzmillenial
“HR is the AH for telling him that OP complained. HR could have found a creative way to shield OP from this man’s harassment/retaliation.”
“I manage several other people, and when someone comes to me with a complaint about their coworker, I go to the coworker and I always address it as if had noticed the issue. I never blame the person that came to me.”
“For example in this situation, I’d say,: ‘Hey employee/widower I’ve noticed that you’re dropping your kids off at so-and-so’s office a lot. What’s going on? Your children need to be in your care under your supervision if they are going to be here.'”
“I’d then add, ‘We can’t have you leaving them with other employees, so if outside childcare is not an option for you, then we need to set up a work-from-home arrangement for you immediately.'” – Quiet-Distribution-2
While the OP felt bad that her coworker would not be able to work in the office with his children anymore, the subReddit thought she was right to speak up.
She had every right to the same working conditions as he did, and that includes not taking care of someone else’s children while in the office.