Disclose That Your Kid Is With You When You Start a Phone Meeting

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If you’ve ever worked from home with a young child underfoot, you know it is an unwritten rule that the second you get on an important phone call, your kids will spill something, hurt something or just generally need SOMETHING from you.

Even if you tell them—no, especially if you tell them—that “Mommy/Daddy is going to be busy for a little while; if you need anything, it’ll have to wait until I’m off the phone,” you’re doomed. All you’ve done is make them think of all the things they’re absolutely going to have to have for the next 30 minutes.

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I’ve tried all the screens, all the snacks, all the bribes, as well as any number of extra-stern looks. Some folks are fans of the mute button, but I’m always a little wary to trust that my voice is definitely muted before I yell across the room to quit jumping off the couch.

As a freelance writer and journalist, I’ve spent countless hours conducting phone interviews. And for many of those hours, especially in the years before my son was in school full-time, he was right there with me, vying for my attention. The number one thing that helped me get through most of those calls: Honesty. I tell the person on the other end of the line that he’s with me.

“Hey, just so you know before we get started, I’m working from home today and my son is here with me,” I’d say. “He’s three years old, so you can imagine he might try to distract me from time to time, but we should be fine.”

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The response I got most often was a chuckle and a, “Oh, I’ve been there! I totally get it, no problem.” Because everyone who is a parent has, at some point, had to get through a phone call with a toddler nearby and fully realizes how tricky that is. And even if the person you’re talking to isn’t a parent, they’re still likely to be understanding. (Or at the very least, you’ve warned them that this call might be a little annoying.)

So, lay it out there. You’ll get your work done and you might get a little sympathy, too.


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