An interesting comment on Mumsnet yesterday, on one of their entertaining Am I Being Unreasonable? (AIBU) threads. Abridged scenario below:
A colleague (Ann) who is on maternity leave brought in her gorgeous 4-week-old daughter today, as is fairly normal for our workplace (I took in my DD at 2.5 weeks, and my twins at 5 weeks).
There was lots of cooing, passing her around, cake and tea etc and it was very nice, except for one colleague (Beth) who made a point of being in a huff the entire time. She is having fertility issues and is soon to have a second round of IVF. She has also had 2 miscarriages. Some of us know this but not everyone.
So after about half an hour another colleague asked Beth why she was in such a bad mood and she started on a massive rant about how cruel and unfair it was of Ann to bring her DD in and show her off when she knew about the fertility problems. She was shouting right in Ann’s face and everything! Ann was in tears and we were almost too stunned to talk.
Whilst I understand that Beth must be having a really stressful time, I think her outburst was very unreasonable. Ann has absolutely nothing to feel guilty about and this may have a bad effect on her, especially as it’s her first baby.
Well. I do hope Ann doesn’t have PTSD from this experience.
Seriously, I find it hard to believe that Beth would kick off like this in the mother’s face. But presuming she did, this effectively highlights the minefield of parading children around the workplace.
I once arrived at work on a rainy Monday with raging PMT and a migraine, still fairly new in a job I was miserable in, to find my colleague’s two toddlers running free-range around my desk area with half the stationery cupboard spread over the floor. I mustered the correct greetings and smiles, then settled down to work. There was nappy-changing on the table beside me and a lot of excited squealing from my manager. At one point she admonished me thus: “Look! Someone wants to play – come on!” – as toddler #2 approached my chair with her ball.
From my first day neither of these cliquey women had ever shown much interest in me: I was unequivocally bottom of the heap when it came to booking time off, and I covered the younger mum’s job on her parental-leave days and offset the shorter hours of both women. They knew I’d been unable to have kids. I’m awkward with children if I’m feeling judged and I only have an interest if I like the parents. That said, I’m not the type to rant or show displeasure at all: I was simply quietly getting on with my work. The utter disdain I felt from not engaging more with these kids was absolutely palpable, however.
One good outcome of this was that the colleague never brought them in again: she arranged her visits off-site with my manager and those who wanted to see her kids. On that note, here’s the response that I like the best, although I disagree that she’s a misery guts:
I think Beth overreacted however I don’t see the need to bring babies into work – surely anyone who is interested in seeing them can arrange to do so outside of the workplace. I don’t have fertility problems but I hate having to pretend to coo over other people’s babies – maybe I’m just a misery guts though…
Now, I also ask myself in these situations, “what would a man do?”, and act accordingly. It’s liberating.