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by Abigail Van Buren

Co-Worker Makes Parenthood a Point of Contention

DEAR ABBY: I am a single 30-year-old female who is child-free. (I never wanted kids, ever!) My personal stance and views on the subject are well-known by my co-workers, all of whom have children.

I share an office with "Elise," who's about 18 years older than I am. Over the years, she has made remarks such as, "You have no right to be tired. You don't have kids!" or "You don't count because you don't have kids!" or "You're not a real adult because you don't have the responsibility of having kids" (my favorite).

How do I deal with her, or what do I say to counter her remarks? When she makes them, it hurts my feelings. I don't react because I know if I do it will hurt her feelings and cause friction in the office, which I don't need. But I'm sick to death of people like her who have children saying those things about people like me. -- FREE FOREVER

DEAR FREE: Your co-worker appears to be voicing her frustrations about the responsibilities of parenthood and somewhat jealous that you are free of them. The next time she hurts your feelings, it would not be overreacting to tell her that she has and ask her for an apology.

If she's doing it hoping to get a rise out of you, ignore her. But if it persists, as a last resort, talk to your boss or human resources about it because she's creating a hostile work environment. (It's the truth.) She should be talking with you about work, not her personal opinions about you.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Work & School | Etiquette & Ethics