Editor’s note March 13, 2023: Six years ago this week, the ultra relatable BBC Dad video went viral, peeling back the curtain on the lives of work-from-home parents. It’s amazing to consider what has and hasn’t changed since then!
Like millions of other people around the world, I spent last Friday night watching (and re-watching and sharing) that BBC dad video. Then my husband came home from work and we watched it some more, dissecting what the funniest millisecond was. The dancing preschooler? The baby rolling in? The mom who slid in the room — low — at 60 mph to extract the kids? That desperate last reach for the door?
Much has already been written about the wild virality of that 41 seconds, but to me, what shot it above the everyday kid or skunk video was the incredible poignancy — played in a this-can-only-happen-in-real-life sequence — of watching someone else’s carefully composed professional façade come crashing down amidst the messiness of family life. (Could there be a more carefully composed façade than a BBC TV news interviewer on geopolitics?)
For work-at-home parents like me the recognition was immediate. Life is a mash-up (forget balance) of career, kid, child-care panic attacks and compiling some semblance of dinner every night (and note, I only have one kid!). In my five years as a home-based editor, I’ve logged hours of “professional” phone calls behind a locked door with chaos outside (“Oh, sorry, that must be a fire engine”); laptop time in a parked car; and late nights of answering emails from my bed. I’ve spent eons pushing away pacifiers, Legos (and now) Pokémon cards from my “office space” that is the dinner table. I’ve edited articles amid Nerf Gun wars (the good) and screaming fits (the bad).
Another reason that video struck a collective nerve, I think, is that working from home — like parenting itself — is by definition isolating. Your funny or crazy or super-challenging moments are mostly yours; sometimes you remember to share them later but often they gather dust. But last Friday, BBC dad gifted us a rare, shared worldwide experience that reminded us of our own messy moments.
With that in mind, we gathered some memorable kid-and-work anecdotes from our readers and staffers. BBC dad, these won’t top yours, but in the spirit of solidarity — and the perfection of phrases like “I have to poop. RIGHT NOW!” — we share with you.
- I have to poop! “I was leading a call with about 40 global stakeholders. My son burst into my office and yelled, ‘I have to poop. RIGHT NOW!’ This broke the tension in a really challenging meeting. To this day there are still people who remember this moment.” — Blake
- Piercing screams and the door shove. “I was on a call and I forgot to lock my office door (I always do when I am on the phone). During my call, my 6-year-old and 3-year-old come busting in. My 6-year-old immediately sees I’m on the phone and panics (coming in my office when I’m working is a no-no). He starts telling his brother, ‘We have to go.’ My 3-year-old chooses this moment to plant himself to the ground; my 6-year-old begins shoving him out the door all while my 3-year-old is screaming ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.’ Since they are now making even more noise, my older son panics more and shoves him really hard out the door and into the corner of the TV stand. My 3-year-old’s head hits it square and now there are piercing screams. I calmly say, ‘Um, actually, can I call you back, please?’” — Dani
- Burps, farts and podcasts.“I have done podcasts and Skype presentations and all that separated me from my kids was a thin curtain. We heard everything from arguing to farts, burps and the theme song to Adventure Time — all during podcasts.” — Kim
- Laptop on a dryer. “While on an important conference call I imagined that the people on the other end were sitting in a conference room somewhere, thinking that they were talking to a professional consultant wearing khakis in an office ... Little did they know they were talking to a frazzled mom in sweatpants who had shut herself in the laundry room, laptop balanced on top of the dryer, with one hand on the phone and the other hand holding the door closed to keep out the screaming children on the other side.” — Hannah
- “Is that Grandma?” “Another time I was on speaker phone with an important executive client when my toddler burst in, hearing an older female voice, and shouted ‘Is that Grandma? I wanna say hi!!!!’ To my great relief the executive replied “Awww, is that your child? Tell him I am a grandma too and I’d love to say hi.” — Hannah
- The puddle. “I was attending a meeting at the hospital where I worked teaching baby/parent classes. My toddler was potty-training and we were treading into dangerous territory allowing her to wear training pants instead of a diaper that day. It was bad enough that I had to bring her to the meeting with me (no child care!) but worse when she let loose a puddle right in the middle of the room! I quickly whipped a diaper out of my bag and smashed it on the puddle to absorb the sizable mess, while still attempting to finish my sentence. Needless to say, that was the last meeting I attended with a toddler in training pants!” — Mary
- Life in the jungle. “Colleagues have asked me where I was during conference calls, saying it sounded like ‘the jungle.’ No, only my kids’ pet budgies/parakeets in the background.”
- Late-night community. “I’ve had some moments working late at night after the kids are in bed, where you send an email... and then you get a response right back! Working from home can be isolating, so it’s nice to get reminders that you’re not the only one out there doing it.” — Elisa