Yes, Those Are My Kids In the Background

Imagine: You’re talking to a client when you hear a screaming baby or kid in the background yelling, “MOMMY!” Or you see a little head pop up to announce, “Daddy, I’m hungry.”

If you are a parent and a professional, odds are you have had your own child interrupt your conference calls once or twice. Or maybe the child of one of your colleagues has unexpectedly chimed in on a call or video chat. At the very least, you’ve probably heard of others who have experienced scenarios just like this. 

Thinking about this kind of situation, recall everyone’s reaction to the presence of the child. If it was your child, were you apologetic? Did your client or colleague seem frustrated? Distracted? If the child was theirs, did they yell? Ignore the interruption altogether? 

Now, think back to when you were a child trying desperately to get your parent’s attention. Do you remember how it felt when you were dismissed or saw you were frustrating your parents?

With so many of us working from home right now, scenes like these are increasingly common. 

But what you may not realize is the way you handle just such an interruption says a lot about how you interact with your team. 

If you show that you do not respect your children, what expectations are you setting for your team? You may think about your personal relationships and work relationships as two very different things. However…

I have consistently found that parents who acknowledge their children, kindly ask them for space, and patiently explain they need this time to talk to their team before they can come share some focused family time have a much higher likelihood of demonstrating those same behaviors and expectations with their teams. 

On the other hand, those who snap at their children or talk ill of them to coworkers are often more likely to engage in this kind of behavior with their team or boss. 

Before you react, please know this is not a blog about judging. My point is more about balance - and I don’t mean trying to split your time 50/50 between family and work. 

I am talking about cultivating mental balance - an intentional evenness of mind - no matter what situation you face. 

It’s not always easy, but the benefits of practicing mental evenness definitely make it worth it. Here are three ways to bring more balance into your life.
  1. Communicate expectations, and extend grace. Instead of reacting harshly to innocent interruptions, which causes mental and emotional spikes, consider adjusting your expectations instead. Ask your family to respect your time, and give everyone (including you) grace when those expectations are not met. Set the expectation at the beginning of the calls that your children/dog/cat/family/unicorn is sharing the house with you and may make a surprise guest appearance. Expressly acknowledging the possible interruption can also lessen your sense of dread that your littles and pets will pop up behind you unexpectedly.
  2. Start your day with self-awareness. When you first wake up in the morning, before you begin your day, tune in. What energy are you bringing into the world today? Grounding and aligning yourself can be as simple as sitting up in bed when you first wake up and taking a few deep breaths with your feet planted on the ground. Some people enjoy spending time journaling. Or you can try apps for meditation. No matter what you choose, you are creating space for grace and patience before jumping into your day.
  3. Rather than building walls with apologies, build bridges with shared space. Lastly, if you find you typically apologize for your life showing up in the background of your conference calls, shift to a mindset of gratitude. Thank those on the conference call with you for allowing space for what is important to you. Oftentimes, the individuals on the call can share this space with you because they, too, have a family, children, or a pet of their own (one of whom might also make a surprise appearance!).
These simple shifts can free your energy and emotions, moving you from fear or embarrassment to a community-minded flow state. Setting appropriate expectations and allowing your authentic life to show will ultimately allow you to be more productive, present, and professional overall. 

Remember, we all have lives, and, especially during times like these, the more compassion, empathy, and acceptance we can all share, the more healing and growth can occur.


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