CONFERENCE CALL VS SCREAMING TODDLER.
OR BETTER: HOW I CAME OUT AS THE WINNER IN A LOSING SITUATION
One day a week, I work from my home office. And just when I'm at home there is always a reason not to send my two-year-old son to day care. Diarrhoea, fever, head lice, eye irritation...
I should give up and just plan on keeping him the days I work from my home office. But it won't change anything. If my wife is also at home, she behaves as if it is my day off. And of course, a dad’s days off are at the disposition of the rest of the family.
Can you help me for a minute?
If I'm sitting at my desk, it won’t be long before I hear, "Can you help me for a minute?". To quickly help organize the children's bedroom or repair the lamp, for example. Maybe even to pass by, very quickly, at our Lidl store round the corner to buy something.
Remember how I told you I can do three things at once? No? I’ll put it down in black and white: I am not a multi-tasking machine with no limits! And while I'm changing the light bulb in a ceiling fixture, of course the phone rings. “Oh no! The conference call!". I almost forgot. I rush down the ladder and try to answer the phone with the most relaxed voice possible.
But obviously the little one is taking advantage of a situation where I can't freak out and I see my son trying to climb the ladder. This is not a good idea. I try to get him off nicely. That doesn’t work. "Mmm, yes," I confirm on the phone, holding the ladder with one foot and the phone with my shoulder while I use both hands to pull my son off the ladder.
He’s really strong! But I’m stronger. Come on! Let go!
Plop, he lets go, my foot catapults the ladder to the middle of the room, I fall backwards with my son being unable to avoid uttering some bad language. Three seconds of silence, on the phone and at home, and then the child starts screaming. At the same time, embarrassed voices on the other end of the phone call are saying something. I think they're asking, "are you OK?" but I didn’t hear them. I am deaf. Deafening screams. Please, I’m begging, not now. This client is really important. And is probably old-fashioned. Conservative. One who surely has a nanny at home. Or has no children. Curses.
Do you remember the BBC video that went viral a while back? A father during a live video conference and his children come into the room? The father simply waited for the mother to come. I’ll do that, too. He screams. She does not come.
The grocery shopping saves the day
I take my son to the kitchen where the shopping bags from Lidl are waiting to be unpacked. Good. He loves to unpack bags. He really likes seeing pasta, milk, tea, oranges and repeats "mine, mine" and "I'll help you, Daddy." Precisely because of this, when I'm at the grocery store, I always fill a bag that he can unpack all by himself when we get home. The trick works. A great distraction: he gets to pull out his treasures and I get to be a confident businessman.
"I'm really sorry. A small disruption but now I'm back."... I come back to the conversation. Which in the meantime has gone on without me. In any case, everyone is chatting about work and family, the men in the family, and yes, the BBC video, which was a great success.
The client said that something similar had happened to him when his children were still young. In those days, it was not common for fathers to take care of the children. Did I hear right? But it gets better: If I want to take charge of the project for children's toys, I sound like just the right person.
I'm a "hero". Who would've guessed?
She walks into the room and sees me seated on the ground between ladder and child. I hang up. "Well? How was the conference call?" she asks. What should I say? "Ah, you know? Those who succeed, succeed both at home and in the office." She hands me the baby who has just finished nursing, and points to the groceries: "Could you put them away?". Her phone rings. She responds, signalling to be quiet with a "pssst" and closes the door. What an amateur!