Dear Ms. Demeanor,
My housekeeper has a daughter close in age to my stepdaughter (9 and 11 respectively). She has occasionally brought her daughter to work and the girls have met and exchanged phone numbers.
The other day, the housekeeper's daughter texted mine that she was in her closet trying on her new shoes. She has also played with some her art supplies without asking. My stepdaughter is starting to feel uncomfortable and upset. How do I handle the situation?
Torn between Tweens
I completely understand and sympathize with your stepdaughter's feelings and I also appreciate the delicate situation in which you find yourself.
The younger girl's mother is in her friend's room so it may seem natural to for her be there as well, with all its attendant advantages. The difference here is that the mother is paid to be in that room as part of her job.
Explain to your housekeeper that your stepdaughter wants and deserves her privacy and space, and that having someone else use or touch her things needs to be on her own terms and by her own choice. If you know that her daughter will be there when yours is not, it would be thoughtful to put out some art supplies in one of the public spaces.
I realize that some people think it unseemly to bring a child to the workplace at all, but I prefer be cognizant of the limited options working parents may have for childcare. The more comfortable and clear the adults are on the boundaries, the more comfortable and clear the tweens will be.
Ms. Demeanor is channeled by a longtime Manhattan vertical dweller and real-estate voyeur who writes under the pen name Jamie Lauren Sutton. She is here to commiserate, calm and correct. Please email your quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org and put "Dear Ms. Demeanor" in the subject line.