Should my husband bring our child to my work event?
April 11, 2016 12:17 PM   Subscribe

I've been nominated for an award at work, and there's a reception where the nominees, their nominators and our general work community members are invited to attend, and they'll announce the winner. My husband wants to bring our child....

The reception is 4-6pm. My husband also works here, and we normally leave at 5 to pick up our child from school. He wants to come to the event, and our babysitters aren't available. He insists that it would be fine to bring our 6 year old (he is willing to leave early, pick her up and come back over to work). The context is a North American university (the award is for a mix of professors and staff, we are staff).

I am really uncomfortable with our child coming for some reason. I'm not concerned about her behaviour, which is habitually fine (polite with adults, etc), and he argues that it is good for her to see my work achievements and that they are both proud of me just for being nominated. I feel like it would still reflect badly on me as a woman, that I don't have my professional stuff together to bring a child to a work event, or that I would presume it was ok. I somehow would have less problem if it was an office bbq or something. When she was in daycare on campus one of us would sometimes pick her up at 5 and swing by the tail end of the other person's work event to eat a leftover hors d'oeuvre and then leave together. This also seems different from coming for the main event.

Am I wrong about how this would be perceived? If you feel it would be inappropriate, how can I explain this to my husband?
posted by MissSquare to Work & Money (44 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No. This event is for adults.
posted by kindall at 12:19 PM on April 11, 2016 [34 favorites]

Would she be the only kid in attendance? Are any of the male nominees bringing kids?

I kind of think this is up to you--not your husband's call. He may need to stay home and babysit, but I agree with you that I would be careful about placing 'momness' too closely to my professional role and he shouldn't require a major speech to understand why this is.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:20 PM on April 11, 2016 [17 favorites]

If you feel it would be inappropriate, how can I explain this to my husband?

You are the nominee. You want to be there celebrating among adults your adult achievement. That's all that needs to be said.
posted by amanda at 12:21 PM on April 11, 2016 [20 favorites]

I don't think there's a problem with this, personally, but it may be best handled by having your husband ask the event organizers if it's ok. Specifically that he say something like "I would like our daughter to see her mother getting honored for her work achievements and was wondering if it would be ok to have her attend."

That clearly shows it's something your husband wants to do to support you--which from what you've written here is exactly the situation.

Of course, if you don't want her there for whatever reason that's fine, too, just that I don't see anything particularly terrible about it (and context: I really dislike kids).

Regardless, you should discuss your feelings about this either way with your husband.
posted by phunniemee at 12:22 PM on April 11, 2016 [21 favorites]

I work at a University, and I can guarantee that for a similar event here you would not be the only person who was bringing their child, presuming that your spouse was formally invited to the event. (If he's not, but is coming only because he works there and other spouses won't be there, that's a whole other deal.)

Are there other people you can talk to there -- maybe the nominating committee or organizers -- to just casually ask if anyone else is bringing their family?
posted by anastasiav at 12:22 PM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

This seems to me like a wonderful idea, and I'm having a hard time understanding your dis-comfort with it.

To have your well-behaved 6 years old be one of the people cheering you on and being proud of you seems like a fantastic thing, and the only thing I would think is "wow, what a wonderful family!"

Is there something in particular that you can articulate for why this makes you uneasy? Has your boss been censorious of people bringing kids in in the past?
posted by jasper411 at 12:23 PM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Female academics pay a heavy baby penalty. Regardless of whether you're faculty or staff, and regardless of the specifics of your intra-office politics, it's totally sensible to be cautious here.
posted by griseus at 12:23 PM on April 11, 2016 [58 favorites]

If your husband would be invited even if he didn't work in your department, then bringing a child seems ok. If other nominees' spouses are not attending, then it would not be appropriate to bring a child.
posted by thewestinggame at 12:24 PM on April 11, 2016 [8 favorites]

I think your husband should see what he can do to find alternate childcare arrangements – reach out to his network of parents, family, friends. It's only a few hours and I bet he can come up with something.
posted by amanda at 12:26 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I feel like this would be incredibly boring for the average six-year-old. Seeing you succeed is important, but I don't think this nomination and possible award is concrete enough for that age. Maybe if she was closer to ten. For now, I think telling her about the nomination and why mom and dad were gone for those two hours would be a good example.
posted by soelo at 12:30 PM on April 11, 2016 [10 favorites]

I really think it's important for kids to see their mom's being professionally successful and I'd be seeing things the other way around and trying to figure out a way I could get my kid there rather than how to keep my kid out of the picture. I understand the discomfort and I'd share it if it was an infant that would react to seeing you and would be all clingy and needy but a well-behaved six-year old celebrating your achievement is a great thing!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 12:31 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

If your child were older (tween/teen), I think that there could be an argument for the benefit of a child witnessing and understanding the professional accomplishments of Mom. However, a 6-year-old, even well-behaved, won't get much out of this and you're right to be extra sensitive to this issue as a professional woman in academia where baby penalty is a well-established thing. It's not a family holiday party or similar, it's a professional event. Have your husband find another child care option or stay home with your daughter. Also, congratulations!
posted by quince at 12:32 PM on April 11, 2016 [29 favorites]

I'm (male) university staff and I personally expect male and female staff and faculty to bring kids as young as toddlers to any event where family is formally invited, it is part of our culture *here*. And I wouldn't judge anybody for it in any way, personally. But all of that is purely anecdata.

In your situation, I would put the STRONGEST possible recommendation on simply following your own intuition, whatever that is. And you have made it clear what that is! I would hope your husband would support your wishes at an event where you'll be in the spotlight. If you are uncomfortable physically bringing so much of your personal life into your professional setting, then that's reason enough.
posted by BlackPebble at 12:34 PM on April 11, 2016 [11 favorites]

Children are attention magnets whether they are soliciting that attention or not. I don't think it's wrong to want to keep the focus on you, your coworkers and whatever achievements are being honored (I'm reading into this that it might not just be you being honored?). This isn't the same as having her drop by the office with your husband at the end of the day which can be a fun opportunity to show off your family. This is a professional event. I vote no. Congrats on the award btw!
posted by cecic at 12:36 PM on April 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

Wouldn't you both have to focus on the your daughter, rather than on relating to your colleagues?

Even if she's super well-behaved, that's probably at least partially because you are attentive parents who care about her and wouldn't strand her somewhere for two hours with nothing to do and no attention...although I'm not a parent, so I really don't know.
posted by amtho at 12:38 PM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

>our general work community members are invited to attend

This sounds like your husband would not be attending if he didn't work there. If that's true, you are correct that your child shouldn't be there, because it is a work but not family event that is being held during work (ish) hours, and you're right that in most academic cultures it will reflect poorly on you. If I have that wrong and other families are invited, then it ought to be fine, but your preferences should still take precedence. For an hour and a half, I bet she could go home with a friend until dinner.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:38 PM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Not sure if you're in the position to pawn the kid off on an unlucky grad student for a couple of hours, but that's definitely the kind of thing that happened back when I was in grad school.
posted by BrandonW at 12:38 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is YOUR call. If you think it's inappropriate, then be guided by your gut.

He can pick up your daughter and watch her at home while you attend the event.

Not bringing a child to a work event was never held against a woman. I'm not prepared to argue in the reverse.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:44 PM on April 11, 2016 [17 favorites]

I vote for your husband bringing your child but ONLY for the awards part (possibly the dinner) and for him to be primarily child wrangling, with acting as a guest being a far off second. Meaning that he is there solely to help your child cheer you on, and then he brings her home as soon as she is bored.
posted by jillithd at 12:49 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I highly disagree that a spouse being invited to an event means a kid would be invited.

For example our very friendly, family-like small work organization I was at has a no-kids rule at the annual Christmas/Holiday dinner where SOs are highly encouraged to attend.

I agree that this is your call completely and your husband should abide by what you want.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:54 PM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I somehow would have less problem if it was an office bbq or something.

I think your gut is telling you: social event OK, professional event not OK. I think your gut is right. Bringing your kid to this professional event is no more appropriate than bringing your kid to a faculty meeting.

Express appreciation to your husband for his interest and support of your career, and that he's such an involved parent, but -- this is your call, and you don't want to mix professional and social/family events.

You don't need anyone else's permission -- this is your call and you've made the right one.
posted by Dashy at 12:57 PM on April 11, 2016 [15 favorites]

Baby penalties are a thing; even though your specific institution/office might be family-friendly, I seriously doubt that this event is meant to be kid-friendly. Reading this, I am almost concerned that your husband doesn't get that it's a legitimate thing to pay attention to and isn't willing to get that.
posted by blerghamot at 1:00 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm going to flat out say that it's a bad idea to bring your six-year-old to a professional awards ceremony, full stop. That sort of event isn't a time or place appropriate for children, and if I were there, I'd frankly look askance at a colleague who thought it was appropriate (and it would make no difference whether the colleague was male or female). It's fine and commendable that your husband wants your daughter to be proud of your achievements, but that can be accomplished without her actually being at the event.
posted by holborne at 1:01 PM on April 11, 2016 [8 favorites]

Yes, it is a bad idea. I never see children at these sort of events and it would look professionally odd.
posted by Falconetti at 1:05 PM on April 11, 2016 [8 favorites]

I also work at a university, and yes I have certainly seen kids at these types of events. Not uncommon and not an issue -- at least at mine.
posted by Lescha at 1:07 PM on April 11, 2016

It seems you are the only one going to be able to answer this.

Seems to me if it makes you uncomfortable, don't do it.

It would totally be fine where I work (and I am also staff at a university), but if you don't want it, well, it's your day.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:17 PM on April 11, 2016

If you're uncomfortable with it, don't do it. You'll have enough on your mind and lots of attention focused your way. It would be best for you to be at ease and able to be 100% "pro" in your mindset, rather than worried about perceptions of your family or your professionalism. Stand your ground on this one.
posted by purple_bird at 1:17 PM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think, first of all, that you're right in thinking that there's a risk that it would be perceived as unprofessional. Unfortunately, unfairly, and all that jazz, but probably.

But more objectively, oh my god, this is your professional achievement ceremony, at your job! Your husband should do whatever you want him to do to support you being 100% in your moment there, and if that means he stays home with your girl, he does that! Even if it turns out that other people do bring their kids, if you would be more comfortable not navigating those boundaries at this particular event, he should just roll with you on this.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:18 PM on April 11, 2016 [23 favorites]

But more objectively, oh my god, this is your professional achievement ceremony, at your job! Your husband should do whatever you want him to do to support you being 100% in your moment there, and if that means he stays home with your girl, he does that!

I wish I could favorite this several times. Part of the emotional labor of being someone's spouse is missing out on things to take care of the kid when it's inappropriate for the child to be there.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:31 PM on April 11, 2016 [26 favorites]

I agree with the reasons everyone else posted: it doesn't sound like a family event, and it doesn't sound like it'd be enriching or fun for a six year old, and you're uncomfortable with the idea, which should be reason enough. In addition, quite a few people would likely assume she's there because you couldn't find childcare - probably not the impression you want to give your colleagues.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:33 PM on April 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yeah, the answer to "Should my husband bring our child to my work event" doesn't matter here. What matters is that this should be your call and your husband needs to back off. You were nominated for this award. That presumably means that you know what you're doing at work and understand the implications of bringing your kid.

Him getting his way would mean that your special day would be spent with you worrying about this (and possibly being angry at him because of it - I know I would be). If this is the type of thing he does a lot then that's the issue you need to discuss with him.
posted by dawkins_7 at 2:45 PM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

You earned this award due to a history of following your instincts and behaving as they directed. Don't stop now!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:09 PM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Agree with everyone else that this is your workplace and so it is your call to make. For me at least the decision would depend on a few things. The questions I'd be asking myself:

#1 What are the local norms about kids attending "the main event"? If your department has a history of family friendly policies and a track record of inviting academics (male and female) to bring kids to work events as well as allowing them to show up at the tail end, that's a positive sign.

#2 How does the politics of parenting play out in your department more generally? If you have the impression that there's a bit of tension because, say, the "men get credit for parenting, women get judgment" effect is in operation, maybe it's not a good idea.

#3 Can you genuinely rely on your husband to do the parenting at the event? I know that's a hard call for you to make, but on the evening itself you'll likely have to talk to a lot of people. This is a work event for you and even though you're being honoured at the event, you are still at work. If you're likely to end up doing more parenting than work, then you won't be as effective as you might hope to be and overall it's probably not a great move.

#4 How uncomfortable will you feel having your family there? Even if your husband is great at making sure you don't get turned into the default parent, even if your daughter is really well behaved, and even if your department is genuinely family friendly and totes cool with it all, your feelings still matter. If you end up distracted and awkward at the event because you are worried about these issues, then - regardless of whether those worries are well-founded - you won't end up putting your best foot forward. Making yourself feel comfortable with the situation is important in and of itself.

As for how to explain it to your husband if you decide to ask him to keep your daughter home, I think some combination of #1, #2 and #4 makes a pretty compelling argument - your career is involved here and you need to make practical choices. To the extent that #3 is a factor, that's probably something best deferred to a different conversation.
posted by langtonsant at 3:09 PM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Every department is different in terms of their level of friendliness toward kids/families, and in whether they treat female/male professors differently with respect to this. There are certainly those out there where you would pay some penalty for this sort of thing. And of course there are those where people would not give it a second thought! But you work in the department you work in, so I think your gut reaction is the most important. If you think there's a chance you'd pay a penalty for it, I think you get to make that call.
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:20 PM on April 11, 2016

Oops, sorry for framing my point #1 solely in terms of academics. Apologies.
posted by langtonsant at 3:21 PM on April 11, 2016

Nope. I'm in academia. This is a no. Don't risk it. It's unlikely that a man would have his kids attend this kind of thing in my experience. Don't do it!
posted by sockermom at 3:37 PM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Look what just showed up at the top of my newsfeed.

You know your situation best, but my advice would be NO NO NO NO.

I was a single parent, so there were times I had no choice but to bring my kid to the office here and there, or to leave to tend to some parenting thing. And the outcome was never ever good. There was and is a huge, glaring double standard in the way people perceive mothers vs. fathers, and because of that, it's still in most women's best interests to distance themselves from that perception as much as possible in the workplace. Once someone perceives you as a 'mom,' they often start to think of you as less competent and reliable in the workplace. Once people had actually seen me with my son, it would just start to come up all the time. The best case scenario is that people would ask me if I'd be able to take on X commitment what with all my mom responsibilities and all. The worst case scenario was that they'd actively use it against me.

It's not going to matter if he takes full responsibility for looking after her during the event, either. People tend to think of men caring for their children as babysitting.

You may work in a much less sexist and less hostile type of environment than that, and I really hope you do, but I just can't see any real benefit that is worth that risk.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:48 PM on April 11, 2016 [10 favorites]

Your husband will probably not understand the Mommy Penalty, which is a very real thing. I hope he's the kind of guy to shrug his shoulders and say "That's weird, but it's your thing so I'll respect your wishes".

I absolutely wouldn't want my kids at a work thing like that. I work in a very family-friendly office (everyone brought their kids to work with them during spring break) and I still wouldn't want my kids at a reception like this. Your intuition is telling you that this specific ceremony is about you as a Good Employee, and bringing your daughter disrupts that perception of you, because in our society it's hard to wrap our minds around the fact that you can be both a good mother and a good employee. If they don't decide on the winner until the event itself, frankly, I'd guess that her presence would put you out of the running in an instant.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:15 PM on April 11, 2016

It depends on your particular university, but at mine this would be completely acceptable and you would not face any sort of motherhood penalty. If you're unsure, asking some colleagues and/or your boss is probably wise. But you didn't say you're unsure, you said you're really uncomfortable, so I'd just tell your husband that the evening is about you and even if he thinks it's irrational, the best way he can support you is by not bringing your daughter so you can feel totally comfortable that evening.
posted by vegartanipla at 8:36 PM on April 11, 2016

Your six year old won't appreciate the experience at her age. The audience around her probably won't appreciate her being there at her age not enjoying the experience. And that's even before mommy penalty and adult party stuff. I don't really see a reason for her to go other than laziness in getting childcare.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:46 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would feel the same way you do and would not bring my child. Even though you are a mom, you don't want your professional identity at work being conflated with that. And yeah this wouldn't probably even be an issue if you were a man.
posted by Polychrome at 4:32 AM on April 12, 2016

The benefits of having your six-year-old there in person (versus telling her about it later) are outweighed by the professional risks. I vote no.
posted by amicamentis at 6:57 AM on April 12, 2016

I think it's a great idea but if you don't feel comfortable you don't have to do it.
posted by shesbenevolent at 7:38 AM on April 12, 2016

Your event, your call. Your husband should respect your wishes.
posted by Dolley at 5:26 PM on April 12, 2016

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