By now you’ve probably seen the video of Professor Robert Kelly being interviewed remotely by a BBC reporter getting interrupted by his kids dashing into his home office while he was in the middle of an interview. It’s pretty cute, but it was also a significant problem for him. There are lessons there to be learned by any work at home parent.
Lock The Door!
When you have an office door and cannot be interrupted, lock the door. That’s the simplest step that would have prevented the entire problem. He apparently usually does this, but a long day made it easy to forget this once. His daughter saw him live on TV, and decided to go find him. Adorable. It was also her birthday, so suffice it to say calm behavior wasn’t going to happen.
An office door lock can be anything from a basic indoor lock to unlock it to a key lock like you’d have on your front door. Which you get depends on how badly you need to keep people out and whether they know how to pop a simple lock from the outside.
Warn Them Ahead Of Time
You should also tell people in your home when you absolutely cannot be disturbed in your home office. Closing the door should be established as a warning to leave you to your work, but if it’s particularly important that you be left alone, say so!
Have rules for when you can be interrupted. We all want to know if the house catches fire.
Make sure you have enough help to keep young kids out of your home office. I know that the professor’s wife was trying to keep them out, but sometimes kids get away. These things happen, but they can be minimized. His wife moved pretty fast when she realized the kids had gotten away, which is what you need when these things happen. Hopefully they have a better plan for next time.
Plan For Mistakes
Kids will be kids, and sometimes they will make mistakes and not obey the rules. Plan how you’re going to handle them.
If you’re going to be on video, such as happened here with Professor Kelly, think about how you will handle an interruption. I’ve seen a lot of people criticize him for pushing his daughter away. Some have gone so far as to call it abusive, which I disagree with. He wasn’t rough. It was perhaps not ideal, but I think it was a natural enough reaction in the moment.
Others have said he should have taken her onto his lap or given her a hug and sent her away. I disagree with that.
When you’re faced with this kind of situation, you need to have a plan for how you will appear. In an interview like this one, you would need to look professional. That’s hard to do when your little girl comes dancing in. You need to think about what you want people to see of you.
For some, the loving parent may be what you want others to see of you. Hugging the child or taking the child onto your lap may be the right move for the image you want to project.
For others, the ability to look professional even when parenthood interrupts you matters more. He wasn’t being interviewed about being a parent. He was talking about South Korea. He was discussing it as a professional. His abilities as a father were irrelevant at that time.
Talk to The Kids After
Even when the kids are little, you can talk to them after they interrupt you at work. Explain the rules you need them to follow again. The older child in this video is probably old enough to start getting the idea, although she’s not likely to obey the rules perfectly for some time. That’s why you need the door locked. But if you explain the rules even when you know they won’t obey, eventually they will get it.
Don’t Reward The Misbehavior
I’ve seen some people say the professor should have taken more time with his daughter, hugged her rather than push her away, but I understand why he reacted as he did. He needed to be professional during the high profile interview, and that doesn’t mean you prioritize the child instead. Hugs can happen later, off camera. There are times that parents need to be shown as taking their jobs seriously. Sitting a fidgety child on your lap won’t improve your professional image. Kids can learn that there’s a right time and a wrong time to demand a parent’s attention.
You can be nicer about things if you have the time. If you need the child away quickly, do what is appropriate to handle the problem. You can talk about the why of it all later. No hitting or anything like that, of course. A gentle push is not something I would consider a problem.
The big thing to remember is that it takes time for kids to learn to stay out of your work at home space. Kids get in the way sometimes when you work at home, and that’s just a part of the life you’ve chosen. Kids as young as the ones in this video won’t always understand the rules, and it is on you to make it easier for them to stay out of your space.
At least this professor had an office with a door he could close. It’s much harder to keep the kids out of your work space when you don’t even have that much. How well I remember!