• Mon, Dec 23 - 9:00 am ET

Kids Should Be An Off Limits Topic In Office Holiday Party Cocktail Conversation

shutterstock_168143396Last week was my law firm’s holiday party and it’s universally accepted that no one wants to talk about work at your holiday party.  It’s the time you want to relax, have a few glasses of wine (or beer in my case) and just shoot the shit. I’m pretty new to this crew, so I expected a little bit of the perfunctory “where do you live?” and “getting to know you” type of questions.  But then some of the associates started asking me about my kids.  Of course I appreciate the gesture to get to know more about my life —  and my children are a huge part of my life — but as a general rule I don’t want to spend time talking about them at my work holiday party with a Blue Moon in hand.

Here’s the thing.  My husband and I coincidentally had our (no spouses invited) holiday parties on the same night, which means we had to get a babysitter to attend our respective events.  If I wanted to talk about how much they love the Backyardigans even though I have no idea what they are, or how much I enjoy Peppa Pig’s completely inappropriate adult humor even though I’m not sure my 2-year-old and 4-year-old should really be watching it, I could have stayed home and actually hung out with them.  I wasn’t paying a sitter to put them to bed (although on some nights that might actually be worth it), I was paying a sitter to get my adult holiday party on.

I was willing to talk about my favorite college mistakes, my love of Top Chef or do impressions of the worst partners I’ve ever had to work for.  But my kids?  Why would I really want to talk about them?  I admit I understood the fascination.  I am the only female associate in my practice group that has children and I work with a handful of women in their late 20s who might be pondering work, family and life and what it all looks like.  But they just wanted to grill me about the details of my schedule, how we handle logistics and how my children handle separation.

So when I found myself at the bar with one of the 30 year old male associates, I thought I was in the clear.  There would be no more talk of my rugrats.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  To my surprise, it was the very thing he asked about.  However, instead of reading me like a roadmap (ok, follow her path here, but don’t veer off there), he engaged with me about the struggles of work-life balance.  He had meaningful insight into how sustainable this kind of work was for someone with a family – man or woman.  He is recently engaged to be married, and coming from a big family with involved parents, he had clearly been thinking about the issues around balance.  We agreed that cutting out the commute was a huge benefit and that raising kids in the culture of New York City was priceless – which is good since everything else will cost you an arm and a leg.  He didn’t hold any idealistic ideas that he and his future wife could “do it all” even though he felt both of them were expected to do just that.

When I’m hanging out with adults in a rare, laid-back work environment like a holiday party, I don’t want to talk about my children – but I’m always up for picking brains about a better way to have the career and the families we want.

(photo: Yuliya Evstratenko/Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Carinn Jade, on twitter.
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  • Harriet Meadow

    Hmmmm. I work as an instructor/grad student at a university, and my colleagues and I mostly talk about our subject matter during the day…which is why when we have parties, we avoid *that* subject like the plague. Since several of us have kids, we often talk about our kids, and I absolutely love not only talking about my own kid but also hearing about others’ kids. Of course, we also talk about movies, football, beer, etc., but still. Kids are probably going to be a topic of conversation, and your question “Why would I really want to talk about them?” seems totally odd to me, because I think most people assume that kids are a “safe” (and welcome) topic of conversation. If you don’t want to talk about your kids, change the subject. You know, someone asks how your kids are, you say “Oh, they’re great!” And then ask a question of your own that has nothing to do with kids.

  • Kay_Sue

    I don’t mind it to an extent…but it’s not the only thing I want to talk about. I like the validation that other people see as more than a baby maker too.

  • Erica

    our work party was in the late afternoon, and two of my colleagues brought their kids, so that sucked.

  • SA

    I think kids are a pretty safe work party conversation. I definitely don’t want to relive my college days (YIKES!) or bad-mouth any former employers …I think that would only leave a bad impression on folks. I think people use it as a conversation starter when they don’t know a lot about you, so if you want the conversation to go in a different direction, push it that way.

    That happens a lot with my childless friends too, but I think they are doing it just to show that they do care about my family – I just push it away to other subjects after catching them up.