I get why the BBC reporter interrupted by his kids is funny. It’s a classic bit of domestic slapstick. But my first reaction to it was, What a load of horse shit.
Let me tell you what happened when my child interrupted a conference call for 15 seconds. I became an instant meme because it was hysterical? No. My husband swooped in to save me? No. The world smiled at my closed eyes barely concealing my relatable aggravation with my adorable offspring? No. The client never hired me again? Ding, ding, ding!
The client had been my biggest for years and because of this, I chose to take an unfortunately timed call. The simultaneous urgency of a cancelled babysitter and a deadline left me the choice of failing as a consultant or failing as a parent. Loathe to choose between rock and hard place, I suited up with my baby sling (so I could breast-feed—read: pacify—my baby while at my laptop) and robe (so I could stash my phone in its pocket, enable Bluetooth to go hands-free, and type while on the call). What I did not plan for was the explosive poop that leaked through all layers and led to an unhappy and vocal infant. The situation was contained within 15 seconds (which felt like an eternity), but the damage was done. No reward for this valiant effort. Just the valuable lesson that there was no room for this type of slip-up in my work life. I was certainly piling things too high, but the margin for error was unforgiving even under the best of circumstances.
I quickly made changes to ensure this didn’t happen again, but the situation was eye-opening. When pregnant, for fear of losing work, I joked I wasn’t going to tell clients I was pregnant until I was crowning. Inevitably, the Saltines and ginger ale gave me away far sooner, but this self-fulfilling prophecy validated my fear and retaught me that motherhood necessitated reinvention. To work as I wanted to work and to parent as I wanted to parent, evolution was essential. More than wanting it all, wanting it all at the same time was the holy grail of my circle of procreating consultant friends/clients/vendors. Putting in place back-ups for back-ups was the pricey new M.O. of mompreneuring. It was well worth it to be living the dream, but not sustainable and not the way forward for everyone.
My husband didn’t understand why I hid my pregnancy and motherhood. He was owning it—an excited, expectant father, then a proud first-time dad. His colleagues and teams were very supportive. Of course they were, babies are adorable! I know I could have owned it, too. I imagine it would have felt great to float around on all that feel-good positivity. But my first “child” was my consultancy and having another baby would inevitably divide my focus. In fact, when I learned other women were pregnant, I was guilty of thinking their focus would be blurry and distracted for awhile, too. I had not seen many examples of women who had enough support to master both work and parenthood, especially when breastfeeding was involved. Eventually, I trial-and-errored into better balance, but this BBC reporter story still burns. It’s a flagrant example of the double standard of what is acceptable.
I recently had a conversation with a friend about how different working from home is perceived from a gender perspective, how husbands don’t experience nor appreciate the usually unspoken discrimination of parenting as it relates to the working world. As in the BBC video, there is the assumption (even when the assumption is false) that someone else is in charge of the disrupting child(ren) when working from home. Can you imagine how it would have been reported if the genders were reversed?
“Mr. Mom saves the day, rescuing career-driven mom from her brood as she couldn’t be bothered. Later that day, her children died from neglect.“
He looked so irritated in those moments when his eyes were closed and he was waiting for Mom to make the kids disappear. In my own “hilarious” incident, rather than getting 15 minutes of viral fame, I was replaced. I recovered from the loss of the client but the specter of that loss—and the threat of experiencing another like it—never fully disappeared.
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enjoyed this suzie;i had something similar happen to me (your Skype story) and work from home, so your story resonates. thanks for sharing.
SO can relate to this. I had a horrible experience with a client once I told him I was pregnant. I was never more aware of the double standard than at that moment. It’s so good to bring awareness to this. Thank you.
UGH. What is *wrong* with people? My first pregnancy, I totally hid it for as long as I could and looking back, I’m kind of ashamed I did. I should have been proud. Also, it’s not like at 7 months, you couldn’t tell I was pregnant!
I, too, remember the moment I confirmed my pregnancy with said client — I could see the thoughts forming “Sooooo, you’re dead to us.” My reaction was in slow motion: “Nooooooooooo! I will make it work. Remember how I’ve done (literally) 100 projects with you flawlessly, on-budget, ahead of schedule? I will continue to be as good a shepherd of your projects (as I will be to this soon-to-be-born child).” Cringe.
Why not name and shame the sexist customer? They deserve it! Or would this be likely to snowball and lose you more customers?