I was only able to take a 3 month mat leave with my first child ( in my country you get a year off but it's only 50% of your pay ) because of my financial situation: I married a man from another country and we have to wait for his immigration to get back to us before he is allowed to work in this country. We decided to have baby at this time because we knew he would be able to stay home for about 2 years waiting for the immigration so why not right? No need to worry about daycare or nannies etc.

I didn't tell my coworkers that I was pregnant until I could no longer hide my condition. Why? We never talk or even eat lunch together and it's a bunch of unmarried young guys. Why would they care? Also, they were very rude to me when I first started working there because I was new and didn't have a clue what I was doing. I was a new grad out of university and their ENTIRE perception of me changed when they found out I was married and having a baby.

I told my work that I could only take a short leave and they seemed very glad to hear this. When I came back to work boy did they have a different attitude!

My coworkers were horrified by my 'short' leave and highly suspicious.

Without any evidence that I might not be able to 'handle it' they assumed that I wanted to come back part time and not full time and they said stuff like 'not too any new mothers...' and trailed off in an awkward pause.

My project manager asked me on the first day back 'who is home with the baby!?' 'well... if you are not happy the baby is not going to be happy...' etc. Etc. He was horrified to hear that the baby was 'home with daddy'.

When my other coworker somehow found out that my husband is not working right now she was ASTOUNDED and sympathetic. Why? It's not her problem and it's not that bad.

I don't find these comments to be very supportive, helpful, or productive.

Basically what I am getting out of these people is that my life must be horrible and difficult because I am not able to 'stay home' and my husband is not bringing in 80k so it's all terrible.

I live in CANADA and it's 2015 so I really don't understand what is going on here.

I was extremely put off by all of this and I have a very negative feeling about my workplace now. None of this has anything to do with work at all. They are basically assuming that I have a 'choice' to not work because I'm married.

Even if I was a single parent and blatantly lied about everything to 'sound professional and together' it's private and not really their business. I also find it kind of sexist – I went to university for 7 years so why does mommy always have to be the one to stay home? Some of my coworkers are disgusted by the thought of a 'stay home dad'.

I don't know how to deal with this as it keeps coming up every couple of weeks. They didn't do anything illegal and it's not enough to be considered harassment.

I guess it bothers me for 2 reasons: 1) they are questioning my choices about my life at work where it has nothing to do with work 2) they are stereotyping people and using the 'upper middle class model' as a standard for life 3) lack of privacy – what if someone gave a baby for adoption and didn't want to tell anyone about it?! Etc. Etc. Or any other 'non-ideal' situations like not too happy about motherhood etc.

As a computer programmer I'm not very good with people and I'm certainly not equipped to tactfully deal with this because it never occurred to me that it would be an issue. How would you handle it? Would you classify it as sexism?

  • 2
    very similar to workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/36599/… which has since been edited, but "who is with the baby?" and surprise it was daddy was also an issue for that poster, so you may find the answers helpful. Also workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/40240/… Mar 7 '15 at 2:10
  • "I live in CANADA and it's 2015 so I really don't understand what is going on here." - I don't understand how the calendar makes a difference. Jerks are jerks no matter what the time frame. Mar 7 '15 at 2:50
  • @JoeStrazzere Or that programmers can't date. :P
    – An SO User
    Mar 7 '15 at 12:02
  • If it's any consolation I'm about to lose a great engineer to mother-hood. I'm praying that she doesn't take a whole year off and I would be delighted if she returned straight away and left the baby with hubby. Mar 8 '15 at 2:22
  • Are they native Canadians saying this? id keep a diary of incidents
    – Pepone
    Mar 8 '15 at 16:29

This may not be a situation where tact is called for, since these other people aren't being particularly tactful or polite. I've had to deal with gender issues for most of my 37 years in the workforce - I started out as a woman in engineering, which in the 1970's had even fewer women than programming does today.

Try this phrase the next time someone gets too personal with you and your family's decisions:

I'm surprised you feel comfortable saying that.

If they press you or continue on, tell them it's none of their business. If you don't feel comfortable saying that, change the subject to something about work, and do not engage in any discussions about your family dynamics or situation.

I have been the breadwinner in my family for over 20 years. I understand your issues. Don't give up. The only way people will change their attitudes will be to see others successfully handling lifestyles that are different than their own.

  • 1
    A Lutheran pastor once told me an easy way to end an uncomfortable conversation: "I'm surprised that you would say that." This answer uses a similar tactic and I think it works well.
    – LeLetter
    Dec 8 '16 at 21:13

You did nothing wrong. These comments are unfortunate, but they come from somewhere.

You said that you're a female computer programmer returning from maternity leave after having your second child. People are jumping to the following conclusions:

  • Many computer programming jobs are not 9-to-5. Many computer programmers occasionally need to work beyond the standard workday to overcome some unforeseen or unplanned challenges. Some of your coworkers are jumping to the conclusion that your heart will be at home, and that you won't be willing to go above and beyond to complete project deliverables.
  • All computer programmers must always be sharpening the saw. Those who don't are toast in the long run. Again, some of your coworkers are jumping to the conclusion that your heart will be at home, and that you won't have any time left to learn new technologies.

Emphasis: You've been stereotyped as someone who can no longer fully commit themself to the workplace.

Solution: The best way to fight this stereotype is to continue to put in a solid effort at work and be as available as you can be when needed. From a career standpoint, keep up with technology and computer programming so that your skills won't atrophy and become obsolete.

Stereotyping is part of the human condition; but unfair generalizations are unacceptable. Work hard and you'll be just fine. Too many computer programming jobs go unfilled these days due to a lack of qualified candidates. A workplace (and therefore coworkers) should do everything they can to recruit and retain productive programmers.

  • I'd question "you did nothing wrong", specifically as it relates to not telling work that you're pregnant until the last moment. Although the time off was brief (in pregnancy terms), it's still a chunk compared to usual holidays. In a small company, that can be a significant imposition on resources, so additional time to plan and find cover can be greatly appreciated. By leaving informing them to the alst moment, you've put additional strain on the company. Sure, it's something they have to deal with either way, but advance notice would've been far more helpful than silence.
    – Basic
    Sep 19 '16 at 11:19

I didn't tell my coworkers that I was pregnant until I could no longer hide my condition. Why? We never talk or even eat lunch together and it's a bunch of unmarried young guys. Why would they care? Also, they were very rude to me when I first started working there because I was new and didn't have a clue what I was doing.

This part here could be part of the problem. Distancing yourself from your coworkers is not a good idea in general, but is especially true when you are new to a job as you indicted in your post.

Having said that, there will always be people who are insensitive and make rude remarks in the workplace. I suggest you take high road and respectfully voice your concerns to them: that you are offended by their behavior and please request them to stop saying / doing what they are currently saying / doing. It is entirely possible they are oblivious to the effect of their behaviors on you. Do not assume people can read minds.

Keep the discussion calm and focus on the verifiable facts of the problem so as to not let the discussion disintegrate into a character attack from which people are likely to become extremely defensive / hostile. If nothing else helps, HR might be a viable path for you.


The question is not whether you can handle your life circumstance - baby with daddy as care giver but whether you can handle the inputs from your co-workers.

At the moment, nothing that you say indicates that the baby isn't doing just fine with your husband at home and you at work - in the scheme of things, that's the important part: that Baby is alive and well, in good shape and have at least one parent at Baby's beck and call 24x7.

What you are clearly not handling so well is the input of your co-workers, and your choice to react to it in the way you do i.e. go negative, could hurt your professional prospects. As long as Baby is doing fine at home - which is what the critically important part is, why should you care what they think? Actually, they are not really thinking, they are worrying and they are worrying about Baby. You did better than worry about Baby: you got Baby taken care of. Worry doesn't do anything. Action does. You acted, so that should be the long and the short of it, as far as you are concerned.

You need to ask yourself whether the negativity you feel toward your co-workers is worth having. I suggest that you are royally wasting your time and energy with it and on it. Personally, I'd go for a touch of humor: "He got me pregnant and now, he is changing the diapers. Serves him right. NOBODY gets me pregnant and just walks" :)


You did and you are doing nothing wrong. Gently explain that your personal life is personal and any comments related to this are inappropriate. Don't be bullied.

If the problem persists, complain to your manager, in writing every time something like this happens. If he/she does nothing 2nd step is go and make an official complain with HR, in writing. If nothing happens after that, talk to a lawyer and do sue them for harassment - at this point you would have a documented trail of what happened.

Also if nothing happens (i.e. situation does not improve) until you sue them you probably don't want to work there anyway.

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