It goes without fail that whenever I have a board meeting scheduled on Zoom or a work call, it will be interrupted by one, if not both, of my children. Welcome to working, volunteering, and just plain living during the pandemic when virtual meetings expose the inner workings of your life: the temper tantrums, the piles of laundry in the background, the dog licking your screen. While I often praise Zoom for allowing us to be connected while we can’t meet in person, it has also created some intense stress in my life, especially when I’m running a meeting and my son races into my office to steal my computer mouse.
Any attempt at the so-called work-life balance has utterly failed during this pandemic, and when I log onto Zoom or try to attend a conference call, I’m already apologizing for what I anticipate will be the wails of a baby or me ducking off the call to investigate the large crash in the living room. I’m not the only person experiencing this and while many parents I know have funny stories of kids interrupting their virtual meetings, generally cute stuff like a kiddo waving or dancing in the background, we all cringe. We’re nearing a year of this type of life: all of us mostly at home, trying our best not to get on each other’s nerves, trying to work and act like we aren’t actually living through a pandemic.
Frankly, it’s exhausting.
No longer are the nuances and messes of our family life left behind when we show up to the office or leave after dinner for a community meeting. Instead, the board room is invited into our homes, observing how we raise our children, how we decorate, and how we try so hard to keep it all together. My hope is that policy makers and employers are now aware of just how difficult and tiring all of this is. Balance is a false promise. Working parents in this country are in dire need of help and, also, a break. As one of the richest nations in the world, American families do not have the security that other nations have like paid parental leave, financial assistance for child care, the ability to work part time, or allowing for hybrid work schedules to accommodate changes in school schedules, sick days, and what has seemed to be the inevitable COVID-19 quarantine.
I told a friend about how I had my children repeatedly interrupt my last board meeting and how I thought maybe I hadn’t kept myself on mute while I hollered, pleaded, and nearly cried before abruptly leaving the meeting I was supposed to leave and explained how embarrassed I was. Her response: no, don’t be embarrassed. Let everyone see how challenging this is, how it’s not easy with kids, and how this is truly a struggle.
Perhaps these Zoom interruptions will finally be the wakeup call that working parents need help, and need it now.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.
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