One day last week, I attended a virtual global conference, and a high-ranking government official’s dog was barking in the background. She took a moment to acknowledge it and joke that her kids would probably barge in next. Everyone smiled, and we moved on.
The next day, I was on an impromptu call with a client, and her two little kids busted into the room. She kindly deflected them with a “not a good time guys,” but all participants on the call were like “Bring the kids in! All perspectives welcome!” And we meant it. Because the moment was authentic, and we hold no grudges against moms juggling right now.
Later that day, I joined a call about 30 seconds after another client and the person we were interviewing for a Q&A, and the first word I heard was “teething.” The woman speaking, a mom who is also expecting, was recounting to a global executive what’s actually going on in her life.
At 6:00 p.m., I was trying to feed my toddler dinner. Yet another* client emailed and asked me to look something over quickly, which I did—and also noted in my response that I was managing my daughter’s request for a fruit snack–centric dinner while also keeping an eye on our messaging for this project. The response: “Thanks, and I hope that your toddler fully approved of the dinner menu.”**
In the moment of writing that email, I hesitated about mentioning the fact that I was multitasking work and taking care of my child. As a business professional (and, let’s face it, a Midwesterner), it’s ingrained in me to be apologetic about mentioning anything other than my client’s needs. But perhaps a silver lining of this pandemic is that I no longer have to be. We’ve seen into each other’s homes; we’ve all had our kids and our pets crash our videoconferences. (One of my cats also made a surprise appearance during yet another call that day and was publicly lauded for her efforts.)
I’ve written previously—in fact, it’s kind of become my drumbeat—that parenting during this pandemic has thrown moms’ personal and professional lives for a hell of a loop. But going forward, maybe (just maybe) this means that we all feel more comfortable sharing the details of our lives with our professional colleagues and clients; that we bond faster over the agony of teething/potty training/remote schooling/teenage attitude; and that it becomes more normalized not to hide the multifaceted lives we all lead from the people we work with and are attempting to impress.
Everything I’ve read—and have helped develop and edit—about being a parent during the COVID-19 pandemic has focused on how tough it has been, how it’s setting women back, how we need to learn from this experience to make the future better. My takeaway from this 36-hour window is scary but encouraging: let’s normalize the mess of life. Let’s normalize grace. People are ready for it, and we need to not fear it.
*To any clients reading: you are my only and favorite client.