Looking around the office, we find it highly unlikely that you’re of the minority if you have kids. Which is why it’s never not shocking when colleagues view being a parent in the workplace as a taboo. And not just that, but also a rather inappropriate topic of conversation. Curious to know more, we asked working parents to share the most offensive thing ever said to them in the office. The results? Let’s just say that beyond appalling is a kind way to describe the responses.
1. “You don’t need satisfaction at work because you’ll get it out of parenthood.”
“During a performance review, my supervisor told me that I ‘didn’t need to worry so much about satisfaction at work because you are a mom now and will get satisfaction out of motherhood instead.’” —Amy Martin, Lifestyle Blogger, Two Little Pandas
So, parents can only be satisfied in one area of life? Do people without kids have to choose just one? Didn’t think so.
2. “It doesn’t matter what you work on, you’re more concerned with being a parent anyway.”
“The most offensive thing someone said about me in the workplace is that I didn’t really care about what projects I worked on in the office, because I was more concerned with being a mother anyway.” —Christine Michel Carter, Entrepreneur, Minority Woman Marketing, LLC
Working parents will spend 40 hours a week in the office, but the quality and type of projects don’t matter since they go home to be with their kids?! Interesting concept.
3. “All the parents I know squeeze work in at odd hours—let’s schedule a call for 9 p.m. Friday.”
“Someone once wanted to schedule a call with me at 9 p.m. on a Friday to be ‘accommodating’ because all the parents she knew ‘squeezed work in at odd hours’ and if my kid wasn’t already asleep, she’d ‘probably be glad to get the extra screen time.’” —Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal, Writer
The thing is, parents don’t have a warped sense of time. Sure, they may have different schedules than non-parents, but why would a business call at 9 p.m. on a Friday be ideal for anyone? Oh, and another thing: No one—parent or not—should ever make assumptions about other people’s kids.
4. “Ew, why is this breast milk in our work fridge?”
“When I had just returned back to work after having my baby and was pumping multiple times throughout the day, I overheard someone in the office saying, ‘Does this really have to be kept in our fridge?’ as they moved my pumping bag with the breast milk and pump parts in it aside. Keep in mind, everything was kept inside a normal lunch bag—it didn’t take up any more space than anyone else’s, nor could anyone see its oh-so-offensive contents without opening it. Why does the mere idea of breast milk make people so uncomfortable?!” —Chrissie Jones, Blogger, OneHangryMama.com
Let’s get one thing straight: Breast milk is not disgusting and definitely not offensive. Grow up and accept that there are moms in the workplace who are in fact, nursing. Crazy!
5. “You shouldn’t [insert any parenting action here].”
“When I told a male colleague that I had sleep-trained because it was the only way I could get enough sleep to function at work, he said that it causes anxiety in children. He was not a parent.” —Meredith Bodgas, Editor-in-Chief, Working Mother
One of our favorite things about the workplace is the unsolicited advice from people who don’t have kids. Keep those headlines you likely only glanced at to yourself, please!
6. “You’re back from maternity leave! Are you going to stay?”
“One of the ones I’ve heard is ‘Oh, you’re back from maternity? Are you gonna stay? Because, you know, most moms who come back usually either leave to go take care of the baby or go part-time.’” —Nicole Sheinzok, Nurse
Why would I be here if I wasn’t planning on staying? I never mentioned winning the lotto during my leave! Also, kids or not, anyone could come or go from a job at any time so why aren’t you asking this to the rest of the staff?
7. “Why do you still work after having kids?”
“I had just started with a company as a senior leader and was asked by executive team members during on-boarding 1:1 meetings why I still worked since I had kids. Multiple times, separate conversations, all widely inappropriate.” —Jennifer Brick, CEO & Career Strategist, Capdeca Solutions, LLC
Reinforcing this archaic view that parents—erm, mothers—should stop working once they have kids is one of the most common AND offensive questions in the workplace. Seriously, what type of response are they actually expecting?
8. “Before we get pregnant with that, let’s make sure everything’s in order.”
“The most offensive phrase that I’ve heard is one I hear on a regular basis. It uses the phrase, ‘getting pregnant with’ to describe making a commitment to do something. For ex.: ‘Before we get pregnant with this purchase contract, let’s make sure our financing is in order.’ Or: ‘Before we get pregnant with more employees, we need to increase our revenue.’” —Anne Shoemaker, Real Estate Development Executive, Anne Shoemaker, LLC
Can we all agree to just stop using the human condition as a verb? Starting a family and creating another human life is a little different from moving forward with new hires.
9. “I didn’t ask you to go on the work trip because you have kids.”
“In a former role, I had a manager overlook me for a travel opportunity on my team and say ‘I didn’t think you’d want to do it since you have a baby.’ I have never been so livid! The assumption that a working mom doesn’t want to contribute at work BECAUSE she’s a mom is deeply offensive to me.” —Tiffany Waddell Tate, Collegiate Career Coach, andtiffanysaid Consulting, LLC
For some reason, people think they can make major decisions for coworkers with children. Yet, in many cases, being a parent makes you a harder and more responsible worker—and definitely does not affect your cognitive abilities!
10. “Men shouldn’t take paternity leave.”
“I am reminded of a particular incident at a former place of employment, where a colleague had recently returned to work after taking a generous paternity leave. On his first day back, during our weekly team meeting, one of the older gentlemen turned to him and remarked, ‘Men should never leave work to care for children, it’s not like you were personally breastfeeding the kid.’” —Robert Moses, Editor, The Corporate Con
This man was obviously living in a backwards world with this comment. Coworkers should be happy that other employees are giving their all into being a parent and a professional. This is why there’s still taboos behind men taking paternity leave.
11. “You’re missing out on your child’s life.”
“‘Don’t you feel like you’re missing out on your child’s life?’ Well of course I do. But if I stopped working entirely, I’d feel like I’m missing out on my professional life.” —Amanda Duff, Public Relations Professional, Duff PR
This one never gets old. Don’t think it, don’t say it, don’t let it cross your mind. Parents can be present in their children’s lives and be good workers too. Period, the end!
12. “If only you hadn’t gotten pregnant.”
“I was pregnant and working with my boss, the CEO, to coordinate maternity coverage. He was annoyed by having to put in extra effort and said to me, ‘It wouldn’t be a problem if you just hadn’t gotten pregnant.’” —Sara Berliner, Founder, Vote Like a Mother
An employee having a baby is not a burden nor should it be seen as such. Referring to it as a “problem” is not only offensive, but also inhumane.
13. “Do you let your wife work, too?”
“‘Do you help out with the kids?’ Maybe this doesn’t seem offensive until you realize that A. The person asking it is assuming that one or the other parent stays at home entirely and B. That this implies that you’re the type of person that has no investment in their child on a personal level. But you’re likely going to be asked it at some point because you’re working. ‘Do you let your wife work, too?’ A partner doesn’t let the other half of the relationship do something. Parents discuss things on equal footing and make decisions that are best for everyone.” —Morgan Taylor, Finance Expert & CMO, LetMeBank
What kind of a question is that? I’m not in the office at all waking hours, am I? Don’t even get us started on the second part. Parenting. Should. Be. Equal.
14. “Being pregnant makes you act stupidly.”
“When I was an associate pregnant with my first child, I requested not to take important depositions after 4 p.m., since I was 36 weeks pregnant. The male partner I was working for at the time asked a male junior associate if his wife ‘got stupid when she was pregnant too.’” —Kelly DuFord, Co-founder and Managing Partner, DuFord Law
While yes, the brain is preparing itself for motherhood—pregnancy brain is not a thing. If you wouldn’t say this about any other stage in life, medical condition or person in the workplace, you definitely should not be saying it about pregnant women.
15. “Maybe I’ll have kids so I can skip out on work.”
“‘Huh, maybe I’ll have a few kids so I can skip out on work and go to a spelling bee.’” —Ash Ambirge, Writer, the Middle Finger Project
Skip out on work? Actually, being a working parent means we’re working twice as hard because we have two jobs. Get it together.