Washable Wednesday: Cap Sleeve Ruffle Bottom Dress

This Lark & Ro dress has sort of a dropped waist and is not as sleek as some of the very popular Lark & Ro wrap dresses that we’ve featured, but if you’re looking for something a little different and you like a fit-and-flare kind of dress, this one looks lovely. I like the sleeves and the fact that it’s machine washable, and it’s eligible for Prime and free returns. It comes in sizes XS-XL in black and a navy/white stripe. Cap Sleeve Ruffle Bottom Dress

Here’s a plus-size option.

Looking for other washable workwear? See all of our recent recommendations for washable clothes for work, or check out our roundup of the best brands for washable workwear.

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  1. Shopping help please says:

    What do you wear in the first few weeks post-partum if you are planning to breastfeed? I am having a hard time picturing wearing any kind of pants with the humungous pads that I am warned I will need. My parents and in-laws will be around so I want to have some kind of clothes on. Nightgowns that button up? Stretchy skirts and nursing tanks? Any specific recommendations are appreciated.

    • Cornellian says:

      the truly huge pads are really just 2 days, in my experience. Then you can switch to normal maxi pads. I found nursing tanks and maternity pants good for the first week or so. I had a robe on most of the time, partly for modesty but mostly because I could wrap the baby up while he was nursing/napping. I’d also get some pads to go inside your tanks to minimize leaks. I bought a bunch of washable bamboo ones on etsy that I still use at night (nursing my nearly 7 month old).

      • Anonymous says:

        Pro-tip for reusable nursing pads: use double sided clothing tape!

        • Cornellian says:

          brilliant. Then maybe I wouldn’t have to change my sheets at 3 AM every time a pad shifts.

          For me the pads stay in place in a bra but not in a nursing tank.

          • I slept in the really stretchy nursing bras. I actually found them more comfortable and the pads stayed in place. The sticky tape never worked for me and ended up just getting shifted around anyway and then stuck to my skin, giving me irritation. I think the bras I bought were whatever was the bestseller on amazon.

          • Anonymous says:

            I literally slept on a towel for the first couple weeks until my supply regulated itself.

      • Cornellian says:

        I should have added that I’m relatively small up top. Definitely bigger now that I’m nursing, but if you’re well-endowed I’m not sure just a nursing tank will be enough, support-wise.

        As someone currently getting over a bad mastitis bout, the less restricted your b—sts are while nursing, the better.

        • Anonymous says:

          I went from a 34B pre-pregnancy to a 32G when nursing, and for the first six months, I lived in a nursing tank.

        • Yeah, I’m a 36H now, was bigger when nursing, and literally all I wore for the first ten weeks was a nursing tank. They have much better support than most shelf bra tanks. I can recommend the Target ones for most days, and if I wanted extra support for leaving the house I’d do Bravado.

      • POSITA says:

        Be careful of long skirts. I almost dropped my infant when I tripped on my skirt. I would stick with nursing camis, yoga pants, leggings and deep v short jersey dresses. You can add a button up, cardigan or drapey t shirt as a top layer. I wasn’t able to wear maternity pants post partum because they were so stretched out from being very pregnant. They wouldn’t stay up at all.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yoga pants, nursing tank & cardigan with pockets. Maxi halter dress and cardigan with pockets. I wore my full panel pregnancy jeans for a month (with nursing tank and flannel shirt).

      You’ll probably only need the hospital grade pads for a couple days once you get home. And pad technology has greatly, greatly improved since we were in middle school. I suspect the super extras available at the drugstore were more absorbent than what I was given at the hospital (though not as soft).

    • I think this is going to vary person to person but I didn’t find that I needed anything special even though, yes, in the first few weeks you do end up with a giant maxi and breast pads. It’s not that different from having your period except you’re using a superlong maxi pad (literally what I used – always superlong overnight with wings). I gave birth in the winter so just wore comfy pants the first couple of weeks, tank tops and long-ish cardigans. If you ever watched Scandal, it was basically my version of Olivia Pope’s wine cardigan uniform. If you’re giving birth soon-ish, I can see being more comfortable in maxi dresses or skirts and tanks. I don’t think you can go wrong here.
      Two specific recommendations though: 1) bring a night gown to the hospital (you will be getting checked after birth constantly and it’s much easier in gown vs pjs) and 2) bring loose clothes to wear home because you will not be quite back to pre-pregnancy size when you’re getting released. I wore a pair of sweatpants that I wore before and during pregnancy.

    • mascot says:

      Late summer baby in the SE so it was still crazy hot (also, hormones). I lived in Target nursing tanks under a tee shirt and either yoga pants or maternity shorts. I also switched to drugstore pads and cotton undies as soon as possible- I hated pads and mesh undies from the hospital.

      • mascot says:

        Also, I found some dark colored, lightweight, super stretchy waist pjs at TJMaxx and got a lot of use out of those. No one seemed to have an issue with checks in those, you are pulling down the underwear anyway so pants weren’t that hard. I am a pj person over a nightgown person though and didn’t have a c-section incision to worry about.

    • Anon in NYC says:

      In terms of the pads, picture yourself wearing a diaper or super bunchy underwear. Loose sweats should be fine, but tighter yoga pants may not be. I found that pajama pants sets were good for lounging around the house. I think stretchy skirts and nursing tanks or a nursing bra with a shirt are fine.

      • Anon in NYC says:

        But yes, agree with everyone else that you can probably switch to superlong overnight maxi pads within a few days (but that still feels like a diaper to me!).

    • I’m quite petite and the Target nursing tanks were comfy, but way too big for me, so provided no support – on top of that, I found nursing tanks much too fiddly to unsnap and snap back, the nursing pads would slide around, and the entire tank front would invariably wind up covered in spit-up or milk. Eventually I wound up wearing a Coobie and shirt, and just pulling my shirt up to nurse.
      On the bottom, comfortable maxi/ stretchy skirts with foldover waists, and gym shorts. I seem to remember a lot of sitting around…

    • CPA Lady says:

      I used Depends for a couple of days after I got home from the hospital, and then I switched to regular pads (not the giant bulky ones, just regular ultra thin maxis). It was not any worse than a normal heavyish period for me. I wore kind of baggy yoga pants for a while. I either wore nursing tanks or a button front pj top with a nursing bra.

      You will probably have terrible night sweats for the first week or two. It’s normal. Your body retains a lot of extra water when you’re pregnant, and you’ll sweat it out the first few weeks. I had several changes of pajamas because I’d wake up with my pjs completely soaked from sweat.

      • Cornellian says:

        I had totally forgotten about sweating. I only stopped having them around 6 months post-partum. Agree on the extra PJ/[email protected]/etc suggestion.

        • AwayEmily says:

          Mine also lasted for about six months. It was awful. And weird, because I didn’t feel like I retained much water while pregnant (my rings and shoes still fit just fine). I slept on a towel and also had to keep several different pillows around because those would also get soaked.

    • Anon CPA says:

      I wore sweatpants, a nursing tank (Pea in the Pod has fabulous ones that are long – the Gilligan & O’Malley ones from Target do not compare at all), and a comfy cardigan (Barefoot Dreams Cozy Chic Cardigan or something – it’s made out of bamboo, and perfect for snuggling with a little babe for weeks on end!).

      Agreed with Cornellian, you probably won’t need the MASSIVE pads for a super long time. Once I was able to wear a regular pad, it was nice to have some high waisted leggings to feel a bit more like “me,” and to suck in the PP belly.

    • Anonymous says:

      I just went through this. My lifesavers were the pea in the pod nursing tanks, a light jersey-type open jacket, and the purebody modal jogger pants from GAP. the pants are loose on the bottom but are cropped and have a band at the ankle so no tripping. also no drawstrings to get pulled on.

      I didn’t really need the huge pads for very long either. but in terms of comfort, I found loose pants to be the best.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I agree with everyone else. The need for huge pads is exaggerated. I was using an overnight pad before I left the hospital and then switched to “super” after a week or so. You also don’t need up to your belly button underwear, full bikinis are fine (I bought fruit of the loom). I wore yoga pants, sweatpants, tank tops (with a nursing bra), and cardigans. If I had no guests then I wore a nightgown that buttoned down the chest or a robe. I did find that showering, doing my makeup, and wearing clothes made me feel like a real human.

    • I brought my overnights to the hospital at the suggestion of a very helpful friend. I started using them the morning after I gave birth (12 hrs post, or so). The hospital pads had no wings and would just shift around and make a mess. I agree that the need for hospital ones is overblown.

      • Oh god, i had hospital pads plus mesh underwear, so nothing for the pad to stick to, and they kept popping out into the toilet, and then I had to fish them out….

    • Mrs. Jones says:


    • counterpoint- with my first, I bled extensively. I wore the giant hospital pads for 3 days after I was discharged. Then I “downgraded” to the slightly less giant hospital grade pads. It wasn’t until I was home for almost a week that I could even consider “regular” (ie able to buy in a store) pads–and I got the biggest I could find with wings. And still used the mesh underwear to hold it all together.

      I had a 2nd degree tear, and had trouble sitting for the first few days. I was still spotting at my 6 week checkup but stopped after that.

      With my second, I agree with the chorus here- I didn’t use the big pads beyond day 1 of the hospital stay and I stopped bleeding totally about 2 weeks post partum. I could sit fine the day after I gave birth (maybe even day of). I was down to panty liners with wings in a matter of days.

      • Anonymous says:

        Similar here. I bought depends for after my first (probably recommended here) and didn’t use them because somehow the mesh/giant pad/padsicle situation was easier, and I did that for maybe a week at home. Second I did use my (always brand, and not so bad) adult diapers for like 2 days but it wasn’t really necessary, just better to avoid leaks.

        Both times, having padsicles available (pour witch hazel on a pad and freeze) was more important than clothing, but I did yoga pants and found they kept the whole pad situation contained rather well compared to the gown in the hospital.

  3. Crowdsourcing says:

    Sorry if this is TMI. I’m pregnant and have noticed I have to go no 2 more than usual. Has anyone else experienced this? I’m trying to figure out if this is “normal” pregnancy thing or if I should be looking at my diet more closely.

    • AwayEmily says:

      Also currently pregnant and I definitely notice that my body (aka my bowel movements) is much more sensitive than usual to changes in diet, stress, etc. I think partly because our hormones are so active. So I guess the answer is…both? ie, it’s a normal thing *and* you could potentially fix it with diet, but it may not be worth the trouble.

    • As someone mentioned on a recent thread, everything is normal in pregnancy :) The shifting hormones wreak havoc on your GI system; some people go a lot, some get bloated and constipated. In my experience, I’ve had periods of both.

    • Anonymous says:

      Also consider any changes in caffeine intake. If you’ve switched up your coffee consumption when learning you were pregnant, that can create huge changes!

  4. I like this dress. What do you wear with it to work for warmth? Do cardigans look ok with this type of dress? I have several of the J Crew factory Clare cardigans. Also, can anyone speak to fit? After the birth of my child (2.5 years ago) I continue to teeter in between sizes so I’m wondering if I should size up or down.

    • EP-er says:

      I would totally throw a cardigan over this dress in my business casual workplace — maybe a ponte blazer in winter.

      I’ll say I tried Lark & Ro for the first time on Prime Day and I was less than impressed with the fabric & fit. Everything I bought when back. As someone said on the main site, the best thing about them is their return policy! (Although to be fair, I had heard good things, which is why I tried them.)

  5. ElisaR says:

    Hi All – I am doing a family photo shoot on the beach in 2 weeks. I have a 16 month old son and I’m going to be 24 weeks pregnant then (although I feel like I look much further along!). I am searching for an appropriate dress to wear and I’m having trouble finding anything – any suggestions for me? I looked at seraphine, loft, pea in a pod so far…… HELP! (I acknowledge this is a 1st world problem…. and I’m being slightly overdramatic).

  6. Travel with Baby says:

    I’m traveling with my infant next week on Jetblue. Right now, we are in Row 1 with an open seat in between myself and DH. The ticketing agent told me that because I have a lap infant, the middle seat will pretty much be the last one they fill.

    I’m fine holding the baby if need be. If I were desperate for a seat, I’d shell out the $600 for a third seat. But my question is, at what point do I ask if that seat will be open? If it’s open, I’ll bring the carseat on board. If it’s filled, I’ll check it. Do I bring it to the gate and see what they say around the time of boarding and gate-check if that seat is filled?

    • Yep, just bring it to the gate and keep your fingers crossed. Good luck!

      • Travel with Baby says:

        like- as soon as I arrive I should ask? “Hey let me know if this seat fills because if it doesn’t i’ll bring the carseat on board but if it does I’ll make sure to gate check?” Or will they know one way or the other at that point and I should just ask “is this seat filled.”

        • Ask when you check in, and again at the gate, and expect that you might have to wait for an answer, or that the answer might change.

          When I traveled with a lap infant on a pretty full plane, I brought carseat + stroller through and gate checked both, so if there was the option of an open seat, we had the carseat. They collected them as we were boarding, so even if you’re not sure, you should have the option to hold on to the carseat until the last minute.

  7. Momata says:

    I know a lot of you have blended families and estranged family members, so I am hoping you can help me with mine. I have chosen to be estranged from my mother, who has been diagnosed by a therapist as having NPD. We see each other once or twice a year and communicate by sporadic text. I have texted her more recently due to her having had major surgery. I was texting her about my upcoming vacation; she knows that my father and his wife (who is totally lovely, and who has a great relationship with me and my kids) are flying in from out of town to watch the kids. She asked me what the kids call my husband’s stepmother, my husband’s stepfather, and my father’s wife. I answer her honestly: Random Name, Random Name, and Grandma. My mother chose her own random name for the kids to call her. My mother responded that kids calling my dad’s wife “Grandma” hurts and asks me to ask her to choose something else.

    Out of not wanting to pick a fight with my bedridden mother who was released from the hospital the day before, and out of my own exhaustion at 9pm on a Sunday when I am about to get in the shower after a busy weekend with my kids (3.5 and 2), I say “OK.” She says thank you for understanding. I tell my husband about this and he says that honestly, my mom and dad’s wife will never be in the same room, and that it would be horrible to tell dad’s wife that she can’t be “Grandma” anymore. These things are objectively true. My husband concludes that I should just let my mom think I got “Grandma” to change her name, and just not actually ask “Grandma” to do so. He says my mom has no right to interfere in my children’s relationship with their other grandmother.

    I hate to carry around a lie – although I got really good at it during my young adult life before I started putting up boundaries – but I also really do not want to engage my mom further on this, as I have really enjoyed not fighting with her after putting up those boundaries. Without judging my moment of weakness – what are your thoughts?

    • Anonymous says:

      I have a blended family. My step-son calls his mother’s mother, “Grandma FirstName”, and his father’s mother, “Grandma FirstName”, and my mother “Grandma FirstName”. To their face, he calls them all Grandma. To us, we use their first name if it’s unclear who we’re talking about. My mother thought that she would get to be possessive about the title “Grandma” and then I got a divorce and then I got a lovely step-son, who already had two grandmas, and started calling her Grandma as well.

      I’d absolutely shrug it off. Your kids are little, they have multiple Grandmas, and who knows how long any of them will be around to be offended about this.

      • Yep. Everyone is Grandma or Grandpa. Some of them wanted to get cute about special nicknames or whatever, but we told them no. (Because there are a few strongly suspected NPDs as well and we couldn’t deal with any fighting over all of this. Also, because ~I~ am the “Mama” and “Auntie” makes no sense for a grandma. Still bitter over that request.)

        If I were you, I wouldn’t change anyone’s name unless it was by their own request. If your mom asks again, you deflect it by saying “Wait, you were serious? I thought you were joking. You know that Grandma is a pretty standard name, right? You don’t have rights to it.” And when that causes the inevitable meltdown, you hang up the phone and re-establish your boundaries and estrangement.

        • Anonymous says:

          I love this response: “Wait, you were serious? I thought you were joking. You know that Grandma is a pretty standard name, right? You don’t have rights to it.”

        • Yes, I think this is perfect.

          And I also dug in my heels about grandparents picking their own nicknames. My FIL is obsessed with a nickname, so much so that I flat out refuse to use it. Another grandchild uses it and it makes me cringe every time. He’s generally well-meaning, but tends to make everything about himself. Nope, not doing it. Everyone can be Grandma and Grandpa until the child says otherwise.

      • +1. I called both grandmothers “Grandma,” and we added a name when we needed to clarify.

        But I understand how these things can become emotional. My husband’s parents are divorced. In our area, it is common to call grandfathers “Papa,” and my husband grew up calling his dad’s father “Papa.” My husband’s step-father is also “Papa” to his grandchildren, who are older than my son. So we have two “Papas,” and that’s fine, and we can use “Papa + Name” when we need to clarify. But every time we use “Papa + Name” in front of my husband’s mother or step-father, they correct us and say “just Papa.” Aargh! It makes my husband so angry that his step-father wants sole ownership of “Papa”! And it frustrates me because this really shouldn’t be the type of thing people dig in about.

    • Spirograph says:

      When I was a kid, we called both of my grandmas “Grandma” to their face. When we were at home, my family differentiated with “Grandma in [location]” or sometimes “Grandma [lastname].”

      For my own kids, my mom is “Grandma” and my MIL is “Nana,” at their own request. My FIL’s wife is “Ms. [firstname].” Both Grandpas are Grandpa, but one of them is not very present in my kids’ lives, so there’s very little confusion. When we do need to clarify, we do so with “daddy’s daddy” or “mommy’s daddy.”

      I agree with your husband here. You really don’t need to make this a thing if they’re never going to be in the same room. Totally understand you don’t want to feel like you’re lying to your mother, but I think this is one of those times where a lie of omission or a little white lie won’t hurt anyone. How old are your children? I also think it would be odd to tell your children they need to change their name for “Grandma.”

    • Could you gently perhaps try and come up with a “pet” name for Grandma? If it sticks, problem solved. if it doesn’t, then you can always tell your mother (should it EVER come up) that “we tried but the kids knew her as Grandma [lastname] so it’s stuck. They know you’re also their grandma, of course!” Or skip the pet name approach entirely, and if it ever comes up say you tried and the kids “know her as Grandma [Herlastname or Firstname]” and leave it at that. A family can have more than 1 Grandma.

      Growing up, I had a Mimi, a Nannie, and a Grandma. I knew they were all my grandma’s, and if it ever needed clarification, I said “Grandma [Herlastname].”

    • Dude, lie. I would. Don’t cater to an unreasonable request from someone you don’t want a relationship with.

      • Same. Don’t cause tension in a relationship you care about to ease one you don’t. (an oversimplification, I know, but that’s the view from 30,000 feet)

      • Katala says:

        This. Unreasonable requests are NPD standard playbook, which I’m sure you know. You can either work on techniques to impose boundaries and have a “normal” relationship, which will be an ongoing struggle, or you can give them as much access to your life as you’re comfortable with and do what you need to do for your own mental health. She will never be satisfied and if you try you will always feel like you’re letting someone down. If you’ve chosen to not have a relationship, do that and don’t let her manipulate you (easier said than done, I know – FWIW, my NPD/BPD mom is 100% cut off and it’s much better, though certainly not perfect).

    • I’m torn. In your shoes I would go to my stepmom and say something like “hey, I know the kids have been calling you grandma, but I just found out that hurts my mom’s feelings. I know this is a huge ask, and if you’re not okay with it, that’s totally fine. But is there any chance you’d be up for another name?” My stepmother was a wonderful stepmother and in a situation like that would have immediately given way to my mom. I think most good stepmothers would, even if the mom wasn’t being totally reasonable. They know the kids are often in an awkward position trying to juggle the two families and do their best to make things easier for them. She’d be doing it for you, not for your mom.

    • I would think long and hard about asking a reasonable person to change something in order to keep an unreasonable person happy. Especially if it could possibly hurt the feelings of the reasonable person. It seems like it could set a precedent that you’ll give in to other unreasonable demands and it suggests that you agree with the unreasonable person that the relationships are a competition.

      I don’t suffer fools gladly, though.

      • Katala says:

        The thing is, it won’t keep the unreasonable person happy. She’ll just move on to the next unreasonable ask and completely forget about the (potentially) huge disruption she caused.

    • NewMomAnon says:

      Soo….the assumption that you can *make* your children use a different name is a pretty silly one but makes perfect sense with NPD. My mom went around and around on what she wanted to be called when kiddo was born, and finally settled on a name that her friends use. Once kiddo started talking, she came up with her own names for all the grandparents that were completely unpredictable and adorable. Kids have opinions and preferences. If your mom ever brings it up again, you can just say, “What can you do? I asked the kids to use a different term, and they never remember. I pick my battles.”

    • Rainbow Hair says:

      I think Grandma Name and Grandma Other Name should be fine?

      I don’t know a lot about NPD, but it stinks that your mom put you in this situation.

  8. CLMom says:

    Due to divorces/remarriages of their generation, I had eight grandparents growing up and well into college. For what it’s worth, there was Grandma Firstname, Grandma Last Initial, Nana, First Name….then Grandpa Firstname, Grandpa Last Initial, Special moniker, and First Name.

    The grandparents Nana/Special moniker were my favorite, so my mom and dad have chosen Nana/other special moniker for my daughter to call them.

    My husband’s family is different, with the preferred grandparents getting the former title of grandma/grandpa and the married in grandparents getting the special monikers.

    To each their own!

  9. BTanon says:

    Don’t beat yourself up over this! If your mom asks about it again, you can either go with your husband’s strategy, or if you’ll feel better being completely honest, shrug it off like Anon @ 12:37 pm suggests – “We thought about it and decided that it wouldn’t be a big deal for kids to have multiple Grandmas.” I don’t have a blended family situation personally, but we refer to my parents as Grandma and Grandpa, and to my husband’s grandparents as Grandma and Grandpa too, and everyone survives. Yes, sometimes we need to clarify that we mean Grandma Lastname, but really not a big deal!

    We had an adjacent issue where my husbands parents each preferred non-coordinating names (think like Nonna and Opa). Husband’s mom freaked out, and we told her she got to choose her name and her husband could choose his and the fact that they didn’t match didn’t matter. And that works out just fine too! People can be so funny about this stuff.

  10. Any reviews for cute but comfortable pjs for a new mom? Need to order them online to be sent directly to her. TIA!

  11. Anonymous says:

    UGH you guys. I only like spicy food when I’m pregnant (sample size: one pregnancy), and otherwise, I hate spicy food. I AM LOVING spicy food right now. It’s all in my head, right? I can’t be pregnant, right? (In response to my concern last night, DH said, “just let me know when we need to start talking about names!”)

    Clear answer: take a pg test. The problem is, until I’ve missed my period (due in 8 days), a negative test doesn’t mean NO pregnancy. It just means not enough hormones in my body to detect a pregnancy yet. (Until then, I’m eating spicy sushi and trying to keep the nausea and exhaustion at bay.) Somebody talk me down please….

    • Oh man, I’m right there with you. We JUST started trying for #2 and I’ve discovered I have some type of pregnancy hypochondria. Everything that happens I link to my prior pregnancy and it’s making me insane. This month I had the same type of dull cramping I had early in my last pregnancy and was convinced this was it, only to get my period three days early. I’m like “why is my brain doing this to me?!”

    • ElisaR says:

      hmmm maybe just have a glass of wine while you can and try another test in a week (i know this is not helpful but at 22 wks i miss wine)

    • Do you want the answer to be yes or no? If your period is still 8 days out, the egg likely would not have implanted yet and therefore your body wouldn’t really “know” it’s pregnant, so there’s a good chance it’s in your head. That said, this is why I keep a stash of cheapie Wondfo pg tests around so I can take 2/day until I’m sure!

  12. possible au pair issue says:

    I just saw a posting on our neighborhood listserv from someone who was concerned about what she saw at a local park yesterday. She said she saw a nanny/caregiver with 3-4 yo boys she assumed to be twins since they looked close in age, and said that the nanny was completely ignoring the kids, not engaged, seemed miserable, and had earbuds in the whole time. My au pair was at that park with my fraternal 3 1/2 yo twin boys yesterday, likely at the time the poster was there (she was there about 2-3 hrs before this post went up). I’ve replied asking for more info — e.g., what the kids and caregiver looked like, what they were wearing — to see if I can confirm it was my au pair and my kids.

    It seems unlikely that there were two sets of fraternal 3-4 yo boys at what’s a fairly small park at the same time, both with au pairs/nannies. But it seems even more unlikely that my au pair would act like this. My experiences with her are all wonderful. She’s an outgoing, happy, easygoing person, who tells us often how much she enjoys being in America. She just extended with us for a second year and said she couldn’t imagine going to another family. In the past she’s told me when something upsetting happened to her. So it would seem strange for her to appear “miserable.” She’s also incredibly engaged, always sitting on the floor with the boys when I come home, popping into their bedrooms in the morning to say hi even though she doesn’t come “on” for another hour, and has always seemed like the responsible type. She packs elaborate lunches for them and takes them out for picnics at nature centers, plans art projects for them, takes them to play dates with other au pairs and sends me photos and videos that show her and her friends having dance parties with the kids, playing dress up with them, and otherwise doing all the active, engaged things you want an au pair to do. I work from home about once a week and from what I see and hear when I’m home, she seems like a very good au pair. The kids’ preschool teachers love her, my MIL thinks she’s great with the kids, and the housekeeper thinks she’s great, too (the housekeeper comes only once a month, but she tends to tell me when she thinks things are amiss in my house, whether I invited her opinion or not).

    If I don’t get more information that confirms it definitely wasn’t her (e.g., the description of the kids or the caregiver clearly doesn’t match my kids or au pair) I’m not sure what to do. It completely rubs me the wrong way to give credence to an internet stranger that is totally counter to my actual experience with my au pair. At the same time, I don’t want to ignore a problem. But even if it was her, it’s hard to see what the “problem” is. Yes, wearing ear buds while watching the kids isn’t a good idea. But being generally disengaged is harder to pinpoint. The poster seemed reasonable and not alarmist, but said she didn’t think the caregiver was doing the bare minimum to keep the kids safe. Without having been there, it’s hard to say what that means. It’s also concerning if it was her and if she really wasn’t doing her job that we might have so badly misjudged her. How can we feel confident in our child care if we completely miss that something is up and only a random post on a listserv lets us know?

    I worry I’m getting ahead of myself since we don’t even know it was her, but I’m just not sure what the next steps should be.

    • AwayEmily says:

      I’m sorry, this sounds really difficult. It also could be that even if it was her, she was just having a rough afternoon. I remember one particular day when my husband was out of town and I took my daughter to the park. I was *so* tired, in a crappy mood (we had just lost a house we’d put in an offer on), and I pretty much just sat there moping while my daughter played in the sandbox. I would probably fit that description to a T, except that instead of being distracted by earbuds I was probably busy texting someone to complain about how miserable I was.

      It’s also the case that it’s hard to know what the bare minimum to keep the kids safe *is* from an outsider’s perspective — I’m sure your au pair knows your kids’ capabilities and capacity to follow rules (ie, are they able to climb the structure by themselves; do they know not to run into the street). Again, speaking from my own experience, I tend to be a lot less “hovering” than other parents at the playground, and I can imagine that an external observer could see that as me not paying attention to my kid’s safety — I totally am paying attention (even when miserable); I just don’t see the need to interfere unless she’s at risk of seriously injuring herself.

      • This is my thought, too. All those people who are aghast at parents looking at their phones at the playground, I’m like “that’s why we go to the playground!! You weren’t there for the three hours of intensive toddler wrangling I just did — now we’re all decompressing, me with my phone and my kids with the slides. This IS my phone time.”

        And, yeah, I have zero problem with my au pair taking a breather at the playground. She should totally read her phone or whatever if she can do it while watching the kids (and I know I can so I suspect she can, too). The earbuds are more concerning, but there are times when that would be okay. For example, a quick phone call would be no problem, or even a longer one if she was also able to watch the boys. I have definitely done a conference call at the playground before.

    • NewMomAnon says:

      Even if it’s true that your au pair was at the park not playing with your boys, is that a problem? It is literally my dream to have my daughter go to the park and play with other kids so I can sit on a bench and partially disengage for half an hour.

      I would talk with your boys and your au pair. She may have let the boys run off and play by themselves, and a helicopter mom saw it and *clutched her pearls* at the horrible disengaged nanny. Your au pair may have been beat after a tough nap or a tough morning or a tough meltdown and needed half an hour to zone out so she could re-engage for the rest of the afternoon. She may have been grumpy or hot or not feeling well or just had resting b*tch face that was misinterpreted.

      • Spirograph says:

        This. The way you wrote it, it doesn’t sound like “boys were really in need of adult help, and the adult that appeared to be with them was disengaged,” it sounds like the boys were playing and she was doing her own thing. This is what I do at the park with my kids! Sometimes they want me to play games with them, but mostly they’re happy to play with each other, and I check out and read a book or just stare into space.

      • Yah I dream of the day when I can take my toddler to the park and just sit on a bench. It is not the caregiver’s job to “entertain” kids all the time — giving them freedom to make up their own games is better. As long as they weren’t being reckless, I do not see a problem.

    • Anonymous says:

      Two disconnected thoughts:
      – Is it possible the internet poster didn’t link your au pair with your kids? That is, possibly saw a different, older “nanny” disinterested in your kids, while perhaps your au pair was being great with your kids?
      – Is it possible your au pair asked someone else to take your kids to the park?

      In any event, perhaps it’s time to have an innocent conversation with your au pair about how far she allows your kids to wander/play at the park when she’s watching them. This could lead to finding out you have differing opinions on what’s reasonable, or it could lead to you finding out that she saw this whole thing happen.

    • CPA Lady says:

      I hate busybodies. I would ignore the whole thing completely, even if it’s 100% true. Taking care of little kids is hard, even when you love doing it and are engaged 99% of the time. It seems like so often childcare is supposed to be a perfectly orchestrated public performance and everyone and their mom feels totally comfortable going on the internet to comment upon and judge everything from your facial expressions to your tone of voice to how engaged you “seem”. Heaven forbid anyone (no wait, any WOMAN) taking care of small children not be rapturously happy and completely present every moment of every day, no matter how tired they are.

      Besides which, the au pair knows what your kids are capable of in a way this busybody doesn’t. There are things my niece and nephew can do safely on a playground that seem kind of scary to someone who does not know their capabilities– but they’ve been going to this playground multiple times a week for over a year. They’ve worked up to it over time and are absolutely capable of, for example, climbing up and going down the slide by themselves.

      If you’re happy and the kids are happy, don’t let some busybody with an ax to grind make you doubt yourself.

      • +1 to everything. Nosy internet lady needs to butt the eff out. I’m a great mom, but you cant bet that when we’re at the park, I’m sitting on a bench reading a book on my phone. They need to learn how to navigate the world without me hovering over them, and I feel like climbing up a 5 foot slide at age 2.5 is a great start to that skill. Anyone judging me can focus their efforts on their own kids, and helicopter parent at their heart’s desire.

      • Thanks. This was sort of my inclination. The main poster was not too bad. Except that she was posting at all. The comments though — whew! Seriously love the dude who jumped in immediately and was like “this is what comes of outsourcing child care. MY wife NEVER worked while our children were growing up.” That observation is helpful because…? And congrats? And then the old lady who was like “it’s such a shame that women in this [HCOL] feel they need to work just to support a family. When I take my grandchildren out I see these poor children with their nannies, strangers who can’t have any personal connection to them, and the children just have this vacant look.” Uhhh. Sure. So you’ve never met my last au pair who *cries* when she Skypes with my kids because she misses them so much. (Stupid US immigration laws.) Yeah, that girl has no personal connection to my vacant-eyed children.

        • I have two choice words for people like that, and the first one begins with an F. Or eff, to be more blunt.

        • Spirograph says:

          Ugh, hard pass on the replies. Sounds like DC Urban Moms. Am I right?! I dropped off that board because I actively hated 80% of the posts. Actually I feel like I saw almost this exact thread on there a couple years ago. I wonder if it ‘s the same busybody.

    • I’m pretty surprised by these replies. If this was your au pair, wearing headphones and being tuned out while taking care of your children is unacceptable. No, your au pair doesn’t need to hover over the kids. But that doesn’t mean that she should completely disengage and be ignoring the boys either. Of course I would give her the benefit of the doubt, but I would also remind her that when she’s out in a public place with the kids she needs to be “on” – no looking at her phone, wearing earphones, etc. Not to be alarmist, but kidnappings can happen in a matter of seconds.

      I had a very similar situation a few years ago, except that I was the one who posted on the list serve about the unengaged au pair who was letting twin girls run around the public library screaming and yelling while she was on the phone, totally oblivious. They were acting like this for ONE HOUR and the au pair did nothing. the kids were also so young (around your kids’ age) and I was surprised that she could be so blasé. Guess what? That mom contacted me, thanked me for telling her, and told me that her au pair was great and she didn’t see what the problem was. So…..I guess everyone has different expectations. But for me more than anything else, it’s a safety issue. Your au pair should be keeping a careful watch of your kids. That’s her job.

      • Anonymous says:

        Like you said, everyone has different expectations. But stranger kidnapping from a playground in broad daylight while a sibling and a caretaker are present is not even on my list of things to be worried about. The fact that OP’s post and your library anecdote exist are proof that there are other adults keeping an eye on kids in public.

        Also, I can’t speak for everyone, but even if I had earbuds in, I’d be able to hear ambient sounds around me. I honestly don’t see how that’s even an issue.

  13. anne-on says:

    Can I have a virtual high five for successful adulting please? Our very meh au pair is leaving tomorrow, and despite REALLY not wanting to ‘celebrate’ her end of year with us I put on my big girl pants and arranged a family dinner, card, and small gift. It obviously meant a lot to her and I felt much better having sent her off on a nice high note (even though my husband and I were literally counting down the days until she left). Sigh. And now we just have to prep for (hopefully) a much better au pair to arrive!

  14. Anonymama says:

    Yeah, it doesn’t sound to me like the lady saw anything particularly troubling. 3 year olds can play on their own without an adult hovering. Often moms of younger kids have a hard time judging what is safe for older kids to do, because they don’t know their capabilities, while moms of older kids are much more relaxed, and I’ve been on both ends, so I’d chalk it up to someone well-intentioned but a bit ignorant. (And ditto that especially for that age kids the park is a bit of a break, for both kids and caretakers, to not be in each other’s faces for an hour or two, but still being there if they need anything).

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