As we all know, the pandemic really complicated a lot of things, especially regarding work, school, and general safety.
Some parents still have to bring their kids with them to work, or work from home, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor AITAofficechild found herself in a situation where she had to share an office space not just with her coworkers, but with one of her coworker’s children.
When she finally had had enough of it, the Original Poster (OP) wasn’t sure what to do next.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for not going out of my way to smile at or interact with my coworker’s child?”
The OP worked together with three coworkers.
“First, I don’t hate children.”
“I (24 [Female]) share an office with 3 other women who are 10+ years older than me and all have children.”
“It’s usually very quiet in our office, safe for the occasional conversation or client/internal call.”
“We get along well, we’re just very focused on our tasks.”
But then there was a plus-one added to the mix.
“A month ago, one of my coworkers started bringing her 3-year-old with her.”
“Apparently, her daycare has shut down for staff and [pandemic] reasons, she has no one else, and the boss allowed it.”
“I hadn’t expected just how much noise a 3-year-old makes. Babbling, crying, running around, my coworkers cooing over and talking to her. It was rarely silent.”
“I DID feel bothered by it, especially the running, but I just sucked it up, because I know a small child can’t be quiet for 8 hours.”
“Some days she was so hyperactive, I could barely concentrate on my work.”
“I considered wearing headphones, but I felt that it would be on another level of rudeness, and I also wouldn’t hear the phone.”
The OP did her best to stay focused.
“Most of the time, I ignore her. I don’t go out of my way to make conversation and when she shows me something, I comment on it but keep it short.”
“One time she asked me if we could ‘play the card game’ (Solitaire), as my coworkers had done with her and I said sorry, no, I gotta work.”
“I’m also not very emotive and I don’t put on an ear-splitting smile and an excited voice when talking to her.”
“I’m here to work, not to play daycare, and right now it feels exactly like that.”
“Once I had to ask my coworker to take her crying daughter outside because a client was on the line, and I didn’t want to seem unprofessional, which she didn’t take very well.”
The OP had a conversation with her coworker.
“Today I pulled the coworker aside and asked her if she had any idea when the daycare situation would get resolved and she unloaded on me.”
“She said how I’m such an a** for being so unfriendly with her daughter, I don’t pay her any attention when she wants something from me, I always have a mean face and don’t talk to her nicely, how she (the mother) can feel my ‘negative energy.'”
“Apparently, her daughter thinks I don’t like her, which makes her sad.”
“Then she mentioned the time I asked her to take her daughter out, and how I clearly have no empathy for a small child in distress.”
The OP had mixed feelings.
“I was a bit taken aback and I explained to her that I didn’t mean to be unfriendly, but my job here is not to entertain children.”
“Then she said I must be a miserable person if I can be so bothered by a child being a child and left.”
“On one hand, I feel bad because I didn’t want to be mean and she has no other options, but on the other hand, I don’t see why I have to just put up with this when I was never even asked if I’d be okay with the child being there.”
“On top of that, no prior warning and there was no information as to how much longer this circus will be going on for.”
“So AITA for not going out of my way to be friendly?”
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 said the OP needed to be able to focus on her work.
“NTA. You’re working at an office, not a childcare facility. It’s not your place to make this office inviting for a child.”
“I would argue that the office should be for paid workers only.”
“No matter the age, having a nonworking human in a workspace is distracting. I don’t understand why your leadership is allowing this behavior.” – Nannookdoowah
“The bit where the mother says OP doesn’t make an effort with the child?”
“Seriously, not her responsibility to and it’s not expected.” – lizfour
“I would sit down and have a very direct conversation with your boss and make them aware of the situation.”
“It’s becoming very distracting being in the office and it’s interrupting your work. Also mention that your coworker is becoming hostile and expecting you to interact with her kid and got upset when you asked her to take her daughter out while talking to a client.”
“If your boss is a good manager, they’ll realize work needs to come first and ask your coworker to find arrangements for her kid and also make things clear not to retaliate against you for this decision. Or another option is to request to work from home and mention needing a quiet environment.” – italy2986
“It’s one thing to have the kid in the office if it isn’t impacting anyone’s work, and people can work around them without distraction. But it is affecting things, and that’s NOT okay. And now the mother is adding further stress. The boss needs to know.”
“In the meantime, OP, get some noise-canceling headphones with a built in headset, so you can answer the phone if needed, and simply ignore the kid altogether.” – KahurangiNZ
Others said the OP needed to loosen up.
“NTA entirely but kind of.”
“I don’t think you need to be concerned with babysitting the child while you’re at work but some compassion would probably go a long way seeing as we’re in the middle of some pretty heavy stuff worldwide.”
“Nobody asked if YOU were ok with it?! Oh god, say it isn’t so! Ask to be moved to a different workspace.” – PeachesKillJeff
“Cautious NAH. I don’t think the mother handled it particularly well, and you are right to be upset about it, but it’s also likely that she’s extremely stressed about the situation and her job security should your boss change their mind about letting her child be there.”
“I do not believe you owe her a certain demeanor or helping take care of the child—you are there to work.”
“On the other hand, it’s a non-ideal situation for everyone and your coworkers are probably making her feel more comfortable by sharing the load a little.”
“If you are distracted by having her kid there, she is distracted more, trust me—which is why the situation does need to get resolved. If she can’t work from home while taking care of her child (which is possible—that’s how I work all the time), then a daycare situation does need to be worked out.”
“But I agree that pulling her aside and asking her pointedly about it probably wasn’t the best. Instead chatting with your boss might be more helpful.” – warmgreyverylight
Though the subReddit understood the OP’s frustrations, they were a little divided on her interaction with the mother.
On the one hand, it’s important that the situation is resolved so the office can be as productive as possible.
On the other hand, the people in the office have to decide what’s more important, a quiet work environment or much-needed compassion, and it seems these two coworkers are currently at odds with those priorities.