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Relationships The new moms at work expect me to stay late because I’m single. Why isn’t my work/life balance respected?

The question

I covered for two parallel mat leaves last year. We went from a team of three to one. I made it through because I had a great manager. Now my co-workers are back and expect me to stay late to do their lab work because I’m single. There is an expectation that I have the “luxury of a flexible schedule.” How do I communicate that my work/life balance should be as respected as theirs? Or anyone’s with or without children? How do I this without causing friction?

I have eight grandchildren I want to add to my will. How do I give them money without upsetting their parents?

Our daughter and son-in-law are strict vegetarians. What if our grandson wants to eat regular food?

I always say stupid things at parties. How do I stop?

The answer

I will say first, hoping not to cause offense to a non-parent, it is legitimately tough to juggle parenthood and work.

Example: night. You’re about to drift off, in your presleep mode of “absurd thoughts” thinking, “Oh, yes, I’m about to be wrapped/enraptured in the arms of Morpheus [god of sleep]” under your cozy duvet. All is well in the world (so it seems), and you’re thinking, “Ah, thank God I can leave my troubles and tribulations behind for a few hours.”

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When all of a sudden, from the other room, you hear: “Wahhh!! Wahhh!”

You have to deal with whatever the baby’s problems are. You get up, change the baby’s drawers for him or whatever, go back to bed, try to sleep, have some marginal success at that pursuit or perhaps none whatsoever. Either way a bunch of time passes, you toss and turn and, all of a sudden, a day dawns and you have to drag yourself to work – and deal with all the backstabbers and double-crossers and Machiavellian characters there.

Don’t get me wrong. I feel and understand the pain of the single person as much as anyone.

You’re out there, night after night, wondering: “Will I find love?”

Let’s say you’re a man (you did not specify, but I use the example because I understand the POV of the male gender perhaps better than the other). You put yourself out there, night after night, trying to meet the right lady by whatever means necessary – online dating, blind dates or in the produce section of the grocery store. Yet you remain single, your heart yearning endlessly.

That can be tiring too!

Now, I wouldn’t say that, specifically, to your boss or bosses or whomever. Perhaps something a little vaguer and more diplomatic.

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But basically, I like the sound of this “great manager.” Perhaps he’s the key to the difficulties of your situation. It seems you could go over the heads of your co-workers and speak directly to your manager.

It’s been a while since I’ve worked in an office, but I will say a few things about it:

It’s better in general to be nice to people than not. Last job I had was as a writer at a TV news station, and the hot-shot anchor was nice to us, the writers (aka “grunts”), and we appreciated it, and I attribute her longevity to that practice.

Every once in a while a diva would enter the newsroom, and the diva would be told by the boss: “You’re going to be a star!”

And the new hiree would twirl divaliciously around the newsroom and act all superior.

One came over to where we, the grunts, were sitting: “Do you know the difference between ‘'you’re’ and ‘your’?”

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Because someone had spelled it wrong. Which, first of all, makes no difference when you’re just reading something into the camera.

And, secondarily, ticked us off, the rank and file. So, we started grumbling, and the grumbling became a muttering and next thing you know the divalicious hot shot is back out on the street, except this time without a camera person and microphone.

I guess what I’m saying is, first of all, lead by example and always be nice to everyone in the vicinity of your desk or cubicle. Secondly, if you have a beef with those in your vicinity, go over their heads to your “great manager” and say something to the effect of “Listen, I feel like some of my colleagues are taking advantage of me and I wish you would take care of that.”

I hope and believe that will work out well. And if it does, I would say (metaphorically) get on your knees and thank whatever deity you believe in, or simply “your lucky stars” you have a quote-unquote “great manager” because even though I have limited experience with office environments, I know they are rare and to be cherished.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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