The mix of peeve, amusement and embarrassment on the face of Robert E. Kelly is something many parents can relate to. The international relations professor in South Korea had to struggle with his kids romping around in the room, as he was being interviewed live at home on BBC news.
Many parents may have gone through a similar situation although not before a TV audience.
The news clip showing Kelly trying to hold it together while wife Jung-a Kim struggled to take their children out of his study during a live interview on BBC World News has gone viral.
What happened was something many work-at-home parents play out every day, sans TV cameras.
A preschooler walking into an important phone conversation? Parents have had that. A toddler screaming at a parent’s face while the latter is on Skype interview? Yes, of course. A daughter asking her parent to bring her to the bathroom as the latter furiously takes notes in a phone interview on taxation? Classic. But lucky me, I didn’t have to endure those live on BBC.
I worked Saturdays covering the Senate beat when my two older children were still very young. There were no sessions on weekends, but I was still expected to turn in at least two stories. So I would go on a phone expedition, cold-calling senators.
I would lock myself in the bedroom, laptop before me while I texted my targets. I would ring immediately anyone who responded favorably to my inquiry.
There were times however, when, like Kelly I would forget to lock the door. I thought I had locked the door, but a kid would suddenly burst into the room proving me wrong and Edward Murphy right. Anything that could go wrong, would go wrong.
It would likely happen just as the conversation was to take a serious turn, like when the source was giving a really quotable statement, or dictating crucial numbers.
My eldest C.Z. timed her entrances really well. Once, she even brought her plastic piggy bank half-filled with coins and shook it like a madwoman as I interviewed a senator. I was nearly grateful when she put the coin bank down after I shushed her. Turned out she had a better idea. She tiptoed in front of me and screamed into my cellphone.
My fiftysomething friend Paul (names changed to protect the innocent) had similar experiences.
Back in the day when crisis managers and potential clients would hold power meetings in hotel lobbies, he wanted to convince this one guy that he was really busy even when it was his turn to look after the kids at home.
“I wanted him to think I was loaded with other clients and had to call him later that day,” he said. “It was all well and good until the dog saw someone at the gate and started barking.”
Another time he was on the phone, still wanting to create the impression he was in a swanky hotel somewhere, when one of his children began babbling within earshot. His device couldn’t have missed it.
Not so isolated cases
Many work-at-home parents would rather dismiss these incidents as isolated cases because of the perks of doing business at home.
I once asked our late editor in chief Letty Magsanoc to allow my transfer to Inquirer Libre in 2001 because I wanted to be more hands-on in taking care of my asthmatic son.
The lighter work meant I spent more time at home. With my maternal vigilance, his bouts with pneumonia stopped and I would always remember bringing him out of that airless apartment every afternoon to watch the sunset.
“I don’t miss the traffic. I don’t need to commute to work and I don’t get that tired,” said Felice, 30, a theater arts graduate who teaches English to Korean students online.
Felice works 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. while her two children are in school. Once they leave, she turns on her laptop in the bedroom and earns P120 an hour teaching English grammar.
There are times there are long gaps between students and she does not earn the full P960 a day but at least she is always ready when the kids arrive.
“I don’t miss working outside or not seeing my friends. Mas nakakapagod umalis. Although sometimes, this kind of work becomes boring or monotonous especially when there are only a few students referred to me in a day,” she said.
Melissa, a fortysomething online editor, feels most lucky working at home during typhoon season. “In case of extreme weather conditions, that makes traveling difficult (but) I am still able to do my work.”
Melissa is also grateful for being spared from bad traffic.
“If I’m going to have a video conference, I warn my teenage kids not to stray behind me. Or I pick a corner (as my background). I also inform others in the house that I need them to be quiet for an hour or two.”
Still, there are factors beyond her control. “We have dogs and my neighbor has roosters.”
One lesson Paul learned about barking dogs and blathering toddlers is to hold business in a nearby coffee shop.
“Meron kang tambayan and you have a more controlled environment,” he said. “But nothing beats working at home, really. You talk on the phone, malapit ka sa ref, malapit ka sa food and you can wear shorts all day.”
Kelly’s video has gathered more than 12 million views and Netizens can’t help but put in their two cents after watching it. I sincerely hope the professor would just chill because the intrusion was not his fault.
And we are all assured, for once, that it wasn’t fake news.