In these dark times, we working moms have to stick together. We need laughter. We really need subsidized childcare. I can’t provide the latter, but as for the former, here I am, for your enjoyment, committing one of the most mortifying moments of my life to the internet, where it will live forever, or until my company stops paying for this domain name.
It started, like most mortifying stories do, with a misunderstanding. My husband and I were both working from home, as you do in the age of COVID. Our daughter, thankfully, was back at daycare, and our son was with his kindergarten “pod.” It should have been a blissfully easy day. You see where this is going.
We were triple booked at 1 p.m. I was being interviewed for a podcast. My husband, an attorney, was conferencing a case virtually. But our son’s school, which he will be attending part-time in person beginning next week, was holding a town hall to update parents on the new schedule, entry protocols and more. After a quick negotiation, we agreed my husband would listen to the town hall.
Unbeknownst to me, he put on headphones and listened in from his cell phone, so he could still “attend” his work meeting from his laptop. I happily chatted with the host of the podcast, assured he was taking notes of anything we needed to know.
When I finished up the recording, my husband yanked the headphones out of his cell phone, and the principal’s voice suddenly filled our living room. I was confused. Had my husband just joined the call? Panicked thoughts rushed through my head. Did we miss vital information? Is the school being closed down and now we’ll never know???
“I thought you were LISTENING!” I shouted.
“I WAS listening! But I was WORKING too!”
“Well, what did they SAY?”
“I don’t KNOW! They just keep talking about MASKS!”
Suddenly, my phone lit up with a text from a mom friend at the school. I read it. My heart stopped. “You aren’t on mute!!”
WE. WEREN’T. ON. MUTE.
Frantically, I started signaling to my husband to mute the mic. He thought I was choking. “We aren’t on mute!” I whispered.
“Yes, we are,” he said, aloud, looking at his phone in confusion.
“The assistant principal had to mute you,” my friend texted, after I assume she stopped laughing hysterically.
THE. ASSISTANT. PRINCIPAL. HAD. TO. MUTE. US.
That’s right. I had an argument with my husband, captured live on Zoom, for the ENTIRE SCHOOL COMMUNITY to witness. Why, yes, I am dying of embarrassment. Your best wishes are appreciated.
Apparently, yanking the headphones out of the cell phone had somehow overridden the school’s auto-muting.
I stared at my phone in horror. I texted another friend, “Did you hear us arguing?”
“I didn’t know that was you! Haha!”
And then I realized I’d outed myself. Two moms now knew of my infamy, which meant the gossip would surely make the rounds of the entire PTA, at the very least. We would forever be that couple who fought at the COVID town hall. Our fate was sealed.
Why, might you ask, am I sharing this moment with the world? Good question.
In all seriousness, I’m a big believer moms should be transparent about our struggles. For too long, women have quietly served as the backbones of our families, workplaces and communities, and we have too little to show for it. At the very, very least, the world should have to hear from us.
And now the entire school has heard from me. I’m embarrassed, but I don’t regret it. This is what it looks like to be a dual-income working family in 2020, struggling with the weight of a thousand obligations, all in one small space. And we’re one of the fortunate families. We can afford to send my daughter to her beloved daycare, which is still open, and to share the cost of a sitter to watch my son on some of his “virtual learning” days.
I bet several of the parents at our school had the exact spat that day. I hope they got a much-needed chuckle and were comforted by the notion they aren’t alone. As a friend said to me, “Everyone takes their turn on the shame wheel. I’m sorry this is yours.”
She’s right. The internet is filled with stories of kids crashing live TV interviews, husbands dancing nude into the Zoom frame during work meetings and other now-infamous video call fails. These days, everyone is getting an unvarnished view of what life really looks like for even the most consummate professionals. At the very least, I hope it erodes some of the biases about who gets described as a consummate professional.
Because, here’s the thing: My podcast got recorded, and my husband helped settle the case. Our work got done, and well. Our 1-year-old daughter is happy and our 5-year-old son is learning. It might look a little messy. We are continuously rushing to meet deadlines or make it to virtual meetings. We have arguments. Often. We’re exhausted. We deeply miss date nights and flying to see family. But we’re surviving, and, at the end of the day, we laughed about our school meeting mishap.
So, to my fellow exhausted working parents: Hang in there. And mute your mic.