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This felt really inappropriate--was it?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I asked my colleague to review a proposal I was writing to fund a program here at work. (Just as background, my colleague isn't a parent, and tells me often how happy she is not to have children.) In the proposal I cited research that fathers' involvement in their children's lives has a positive impact, and that lack of involvement has a negative impact.

My coworker challenged the validity of the studies by writing in the margin of my proposal (and saying to me out loud as we met):

Are these specific groups of fathers? What if [your dh] died, is this what [your ds] would end up like?
I got really mad. I understood her to be attacking me personally for including research that shows that fathers have a positive role in their children's lives!

Would you have understood this to be a personal attack? Now that I'm reading it, I think she also meant to say something racist and/or classist.

I wish I hadn't gotten so angry though.
post #2 of 13
Sounds like your colleague has some issue with fathers to me. I would have gotten angry too, but I'm wondering if the issue is really personal for her, rather than with you.....Perhaps she felt safe in challenging you (?)

Really, how can you question positive involvement of a father as a good thing in a child's life? I know some outstanding people that have flourished in single parent families, but I don't think your research questioned that. It seems that she read that into it though....Maybe her personal experience hasn't been a positive one....

Have you tried to discuss it with her?
post #3 of 13
I'm wondering if she took it personally?
That's a pretty extreme statement, especially if it was all alone.

Does she have an absentee parent?
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
My co-worker is a widow in her 50s who grew up in a two-parent family. She said that she did take the research personally. I'm not sure why: she herself was married, she had no children, and she had a good relationship with her father (who just passed away this year in his late 80s.)

Hello! The proposal was for a grant to fund a program to get fathers more involved with their children! I'm hardly going to cite research that says that children do just fine without their fathers! (There is actually research with results in both directions. Sociology isn't a very exact science, you know! :P )

Some of this is my coworker projecting her situation onto mine. Her late husband was disabled for much of their marriage, so she was the main breadwinner and she is still bitter about that, years after his death. She has been telegraphing her disapproval of my husband for taking on childcare and only working part time.

The more I think about this, the more it feels like a below-the-belt hit. I don't want to talk about it with her any more, though. She is often incredibly annoying and usually I can deal with her, but this just bothered me.

I think I'm getting less tolerant of some of her attitudes--she has a lot of unexamined racism and she doesn't like children, and we work for an agency that serves a lot of people of color, mainly young families with young children. She also blurts out dopey things about our co-workers who are people of color or come from other countries. I kind of feel like she needs to get with the program already.
post #5 of 13
Yikes! Get with the program or leave it, I say. Sounds like she has little empathy for you, your co-workers, or the people you are trying to help.....

As a side note, I have a workmate friend that I am losing my tolerance with, as well. Although the situation isn't as foul as your own, I've made a decision to keep my distance on certain matters from now on.....So, I know some of the feeling that you are experiencing right now.

Sounds like a great proposal....Good luck!
post #6 of 13
Her response was ignorant. There is a big difference between a child whose father made the CHOICE to abandon them and a child whose parent had no choice and dies. One child feels rejected and unloved. the other is sad that their parent died, but secure in the knowledge that the father did not choose to leave them and loved them. BIG DIFFERENCE!!!!! However, I would just ignore this woman and try to have lttle to do with her.
post #7 of 13

DISCLAIMER: I have a piss-poor attitude about work.

It was inappropriate.

As far as what to do: I say kick her in the face.

I can say that because that's what I always tell myself when someone upsets me profoundly. It helps because I get to imagine the well-deserved violent attack but I don't actually DO it because I'm too lazy and out of shape to get my foot up that high ('splains why I didn't say "punch her in the face", see?)

I have several coslackers who are making me insane. I keep saying, "FIRE ME, PLEASE!" 'cuz that'd be sweet.

The company is having a strategic planning dude around this week. I'm going to be SO busy filing.........my NAILS!!!
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
She's a person I have to work with very closely. She has annoyed me from the beginning, but I also can find things to like and admire about her, so I cultivate that. But she's a toughie. Most of my difficult people in other jobs were obviously crazy, so I could forgive them. She's not crazy, she's just angry and jealous. And a dolt about race and other differences. She thinks she's very tolerant, she means to be, too, but it's actually sort of incredible, the things she says.

She's the kind of person who gets all giggly if someone at one of the funders has a Spanish name. Get over it, lady! She's been working in non-profit social service agencies for her entire professional life. I mean, yuck!

I don't have as good an attitude toward work as I used to. For one thing, check this out: I am typing this while up pumping my breast on a Sunday morning instead of cuddling with my baby and my man in bed.
post #9 of 13
I think that's probably the most difficult part. I have a problem with "poor me". Poor me is sacrificing time with her babies because "poor me" was born way late and couldn't stop the Big Flood that forever changed our society's view of an unemployed Mother.

But that's a long rant and a very unorganized one, as well. Because I get too worked up to be articulate.

I'm sorry we have to pump and I'm especially sorry you have to do so on a Sunday morning. I'm also sorry that woman was callous enough to suggest you consider your husband's death. How horrible.

You know what's so great about you? You can "find things to like and admire about her" AND you can "cultivate that". Where I'd dismiss, you dig and manage to find good. It's one of those things that makes you amazing. Babe won't remember you weren't in bed cuddling this morning, he'll remember how you find good in some pretty rough places.
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
Well, I'm working with this person very closely and I'd better be able to get along with her. I do try to be a really kind person because that's my belief-system thingie. But I'm not that good at it. You are responding to my noble intentions, but you don't know how mad I get in real life! People can hear me yelling down the hall! It's not very professional!

Anyway sometime we should discuss this issue that you bring up, the thing about "unemployed mothers." (I don't think there is such an animal!) It's my belief that social attitudes haven't changed as much as the cost of living. Uh oh. Now I've set myself another in a series of internet research projects: which is it, economic necessity or ideology that sends us out the door to work? For me it's economic necessity, at least right now.

I have to figure out how to get along with this coworker even if she keeps doing her unawarely hostile thing. It's always so much better for me when she's not there, I get to eat lunch with the cool people.
post #11 of 13
Uh oh, is this your totally (IMO - I know you don't find her as bad as some others!) nutso boss? Or is this ANOTHER nutso colleague? If it's another nutso colleague, then geez, maybe it's time to start encouraging her to find another job, or seeking grants that'll make her redundant, or something else of the sort. From what you've posted about your job, it sounds like you have a really cool position, but man - these crazy colleagues have to GO.
post #12 of 13
As an overly analytic scientific minded person I would guess that the person who wrote that comment is just trying to be scientifically precise.

I have actually said the same thing myself to argue with those who think a two-parent family is a magic bullet against social woes. Personally, I don't believe that if I happened to die young it would condemn my daughter to live a dreadful life. Logically, that means that someone else could reasonably substitute for the parenting I give her.

Since you are trying to fund a grant, perhaps you should write it to say that kids do better with more caring, involved adults in their lives (there is plenty of evidence for that) and then say that you are targeting fathers because the father is usually one of the most convenient and likely adults available to parent a child.

post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by AmyB
As an overly analytic scientific minded person I would guess that the person who wrote that comment is just trying to be scientifically precise.

The scientifically precise way of making that comment is something like:

"Do these studies really prove your point? How do they deal with class issues, since our program is specifically meant to help low-income families?"

That would be a comment that actually addressed the role of the research in a grant proposal! Her comment was hardly scientific! It was personal! As my friend pointed out to me, there are some ways of saying things that just cut off all rational conversation.

As I wrote above, I know that there are a lot of studies, some showing that fathers are essential and some that they are superfluous or harmful. My job is to write a grant proposal to fund a program to get young men positively involved in the lives of children they have had with girlfriends. The program has nothing whatever to do with parents dying, heaven forbid.

There is a lot of father-positive research out there that people try to use to show why dads should get custody in divorce cases. Our program has NOTHING WHATEVER to do with that. These are never-married teen parents and many live together without being married. But how would you know that?

My coworker, however, knows that perfectly well!

Edited to add: Editing a grant proposal isn't about scientific inquiry, it's about analysis of argument, and ad hominem arguments generally do not seem to be within the scope of scientific rationalism.
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