It’s almost been a year since the expressions “Shall we have a zoom call”, “you’re on mute” and “sorry can you let me share my screen” have become a regular part of our vocabulary.

The ubiquity  of online meetings have come with the obvious advantages, however  participating in a video call when you have children in the house who want your attention and do not adhere to nor respect your meeting schedule can be a daily challenge right now. And the fear of their appearance can be as distracting as their actual appearance.

While we find the innumerable viral videos of children appearing in the back of interviews hilarious (I will link these below for some light relief), when it is our own children appearing in our meetings it can feel frustrating and embarrassing. I’ve been in multiple meetings when parents have apologised to me for their child either appearing in the screen or crying in the background.

I think it’s time that we stop apologising for this?

As working parents, we need to be kinder to ourselves. We certainly did not ask to be thrown into a global pandemic. Working parents, have been placed in an impossible position and have shown incredible resilience in being able to handle their competing demands as well as they have done.

As executive coaches, we frequently encounter working parents who would rather the ‘parent’ part of their identity be left at home. This can be exacerbated by workplace cultures which expect a strict divide between ‘work’ and ‘home’. I wonder if we feel so embarrassed when our children interrupt our calls because it feels like a violation of these unwritten rules.

A cultural reset is needed.

We need to accept that working parents can be and are both committed employees and are also hands-on parents. We need to check in with the unconscious bias we might have towards working parents where we question their commitment and their productivity because we assume their priorities lie elsewhere. All of us have other priorities, they just may not be as visible.

We equally need leaders, CEOs and managers, who will lead by example and model what it means to be a working parent. For example, Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd who became the youngest woman to ever IPO a company this week with her son on her hip.

Actions often speaks louder than words, so think about what you can actively do to show support your working parents whilst in lockdown.  Ask them what would help them, keep  meetings short, avoid scheduling appointments at lunchtime and if a child is in view on a video call warmly welcome them.  You could even schedule a regular session for your team where parents are warmly encouraged to invite their children?  

We need companies and leaders who are going to bold enough to implement a cultural reset in how working parents are perceived and reflect that in policies and practices that support their working parents.

And working parents, we need to be kinder to ourselves, to stop apologising and to embrace our identity as valuable employees and as amazing parents.

Videos of children entering interviews and zoom calls for light relief:

Zoe Peters