When I first watched this viral video of a BBC expert hopelessly clawing back his child during an on-air interview, I thought to myself, what a dick.
You’ve probably seen the moment, featuring Robert E. Kelly of Pusan National University in South Korea: A small child, with a baby in tow, trots into what appears to be a home office, only to be shoved off camera by the father as he continues, poker-faced, to offer analysis on Korean geopolitics. Both children are then frantically dragged out the door by an embarrassed caregiver.
Shouldn’t this guy have followed the textbook response to public embarrassment agreed upon by practically all parents, you might ask? It’s a standard script: Remain calm. Reason quietly with child. Make self-deprecating joke to onlookers. Remove child lovingly but firmly from premises. Resume incisive thinking with aplomb.
But as a mother of two toddlers who works from home, I had several humbling realizations as I watched this clip again (and again and again). First, I was not actually appalled; I was belly laughing in sympathy, because I too am rarely the parent we all aspire to be. My responses to my children in tense moments are mostly unflattering and always in some way regrettable.
Second, work-life balance has come a long way in recent years, but our work culture often remains stuck in past eras, which makes moments like this all the more stressful. That’s partly because, in this internet-connected, globalized economy, we have to stay strapped to our phones and computers to get a seat at the table. And yet, we are still adhering to a 1950s-era standard of cultivating completely separate personal and professional personas.
Indeed, upon closer inspection of the video, we see the makings of this desperate act. What appears to be this worldly commentator’s home office is actually a bedroom, with a world map taped to the wall and books lined up across the bed. His children didn’t just interrupt his interview; they uncovered his professional ruse. And now those poor kids are condemned to a life of meme-dom.
For all we know, the father didn’t gently usher his children out of the room because he wasn’t wearing pants under that dapper jacket and tie.