Life Gives You Lemons

NEWSFLASH: Life Happens. So does kidnoise
June 28, 2007, 10:05 pm
Filed under: business life, parenting

I really feel like this post should already exist. Maybe it does. WTF is it with pretending it would be the deadliest. sin. ever. for your kids to be overheard in the background while you’re on a business call?

I mean, yes, I know, it totally would be mortifying. I too swallowed that kool-aid. I play by that rule. But what I want to know is WHY?

Let’s review. We all know that:

  • Many people are at home when they work. Yes even supremely professional, supremely skilled, supremely qualified, hardworking people. Arguably, some of the brightest minds do.
  • Children (and dogs, yes, there’re both here) likewise are in (those very same) homes.
  • The mere presence of sounds in the background does not mean your work is any less good or valid.
  • Working from wherever is fast becoming a new version of the American Dream

So why the FRIG would it be JUST AWFUL if someone overheard your child, dog, or hell, mother-in-law, in the background? Why do we all go to such lengths to pretend it ain’t so?

Noise would impede the call. Um, yes, but, um, no. Think conference calls where someone is dialing in from the highway with loud ensuing road noise. It happens. Everyone groans but accepts it. That’s life.

It’s Unprofessional. Sure. Ideally, I really would prefer not to listen to another’s (or share my own) screaming baby throughout the call. But why scurry for the phone shutting doors and giving the nanny (or other caretaker) meaningful weighty winks to “disappear” all sounds altogether? We have accepted home offices in the working world, why the “make believe” that the “home” part isn’t there?

This great NYT article about Ladies who Launch gives us the warm fuzzies, because it’s true that many professional women will “cut you slack” about kidnoise:

“There is just something about woman-to-woman legal advice,” Ms. Gabay-Rafiy said. “We’re never condescending. We explain things in plain English. And when I’m on the phone with a client launching a business from her basement who keeps apologizing because a baby is crying in the background, I just get it. I have two kids myself and I know what it’s like.”

But it also gives us pause. Why haven’t we as “the working world” come to accept this aspect of home-based professionals? Couldn’t everyone just learn to deal with it? Why should the entrepreneur/telecommuter/freelancer live in fear that the baby will wake up/dog will go off on the mailman/etc.? Why the unnatural dependence on email or carefully scheduled calls to be sure all will be silent when the phone does ring?

And to open a whole other can of worms, does this affect, as I suspect, home-based women a teensy bit more than men or is it the same either way?


3 Comments so far
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Hi, I totally agree with you that kids should be able to be in the background on a phone call. In fact, as a journalist I do two or three interviews a day, and my kids are in the background in the majority of calls. Every single person has been kind about it, and many people have allowed me to hang up and call back.
But that’s not what my post (which you linked to) was about. It was about the times when you cannot deal with kids. One was a radio interivew — kids in the background on a live radio interview will not sound like kids, they’ll sound like a bad connection, which is not fair to the station doing the interview.
But there is another scenario — more important. It is impossible to have a two-year-old running around the house and be on the phone and be your best, smartest, sharpest self ont he phone. The two-year-old must be attended to, at least to make sure he does not electrocute himself.
For me, most of my problems with kids in the background is not so much the noise but my ability to think as sharply as possible.

Penelope, thanks for coming by. Your stance rocks, and I am glad you clarified about the live radio factor. I still working up the guts to do what you do regularly, with the kids in the background. In this post I’m questioning myself every bit as much as I question the zeitgeist. The 2-year-old factor is crucial too, but even the times when grandma/nanny/dad/babysitter is on top of that, I am still struggling to not be mortified about the simple presence of the noise.

Thanks again,

Comment by Penelope Trunk

I have a home office and still take my 3-year-old to daycare everyday. Otherwise I would be acting out a scene from the Wizard of Oz (I am usually Aunty Em or Dorothy) while trying to give sound council to a client. “Yes, what was that you said? Oh well, my advice would be to…(whispering) ‘follow the yellow brick road’…No, not you, my three-year-old.” You get the picture.

Comment by Kami Huyse

My husband and I both work at home. And when my son comes in to share some terrific insight during a phone call with a client, I deal with him the best I can and apologize to the person. Because my calls are sales calls, for the most part, I think I need to be quite professional. I tell the people “I’m working at home today. I had my calls transferred here.”
I realize it’s a white lie, since I work at home everyday. Be that as it may, I have to maintain some kind of decorum.
I think it’s a problem that anyone with kids who works at home has.And there is no way around it being that all children at some time are naughty. And face it, they’re just like us, imperfect.

Comment by MamaLady

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