About 9,000 friends forwarded me the clip of the BBC commentator dad who was gleefully interrupted by his toddler. That is because they know that I have been there. Oh yes. I saw BBC Dad’s tight, perspiring face and laughed until tears rolled down my face — because for once, that wasn’t me.
My husband Tom and I are both writers who work from home, so our small Brooklyn apartment is our office, home, and playdate spot for our 7-year-old daughter. We’re not alone: According to the latest American Time Use survey, 24% of employed people did some, or all, of their work at home.
Yes, it’s fun to wear yoga pants on the job and to be able to rummage in your pantry whenever you want for handfuls of granola, but because my home and job and parenthood are so deeply entwined, my life is an endless series of BBC Dad moments.
The very worst occurred when Sylvie was in preschool. She was running a fever, so I kept her home. She was thrilled, and happily binge-watched Martha Speaks in her pajamas while I prepared for my phone interview with Jennifer Hudson for the cover story of a major magazine. I told Tom that I would tend to Sylvie all day except from 5 to 6 p.m., when I had to chat with Jennifer.
“I just need that hour,” I told him, as I, ever the household manager, arranged a snack tray for Sylvie and pulled out a board game for them to play.
At 4:45, Tom and Sylvie were peacefully immersed in a game of Enchanted Forest as I crept upstairs to our office, where I had attached my tape recorder to the phone. Jennifer, whom I had interviewed a few times before, was delightful, as usual — charming and down to earth.
When I do phone interviews, I am intently focused so that I can quickly cover all the questions I need to get to during my allotted time — generally 45 minutes to an hour for a cover story. I have to be incredibly alert that my subject does not go on any sort of tangent, because then we won’t get to the questions my editor has asked for. And then I may not get paid.
Jennifer and I had just moved on to dieting tips when Sylvie suddenly appeared next to me.
Poo, she breathed. At 3, she was in the midst of potty training, and preferred that I finish the job. We had one bathroom, and it was downstairs.
I waved her away. Where’s Daddy? I whispered.
“— my biggest thing is banana pudding, but it’s the devil!” Jennifer was saying. “So no one is allowed to bring it into my house.”
“I’ll say, ‘It’s not on my Weight Watchers radar,’” said Jennifer. I laughed too heartily while frantically waving Sylvie away. Have Daddy do it, I mouthed. “It’s not tolerated! It will be thrown away! Because I can’t control myself. So why put it in my domain?”
“Exactly!” I nearly screamed, as sweat pooled in my bra.
I have to poo. I have to poo now. And then one of the phrases parents dread the most: It’s coming out.
Desperately, I took off my shoe and threw it downstairs to catch Tom’s attention.
Daddy will do it, I whispered.
Poo. Poo. Poo. Poo. Poo.
While I was hyena-laughing at Jennifer’s mild jokes (I hate transcribing my tapes later), my eyes roamed around my home office. Maybe she could crap on a piece of copy paper, I thought. It’s probably happened before, right? There’s bound to be someone who is working at an office late at night and doesn’t want to, you know, walk all the way down to the company bathroom.
But I was on a landline and couldn’t stretch all the way to grab the paper. Finally I asked the Academy Award and Grammy–winning star if she could hold for “just a quick sec.”
I grabbed Sylvie’s hand and raced downstairs, passing Tom on the couch. His blank eyes were bathed in the soft glow of his smartphone. He quickly knotted his forehead in a feigned look of earnest importance, as if he was attending to some pressing work matter. But I knew exactly what he was doing. He was playing SocialChess with some guy in the Philippines. “I was just playing for a minute,” he tells me later, during one of the worst fights we’ve ever had.
So I know what it’s like when your kid climbs into your lap while you’re doing a conference call and tries to stick her finger up your nose, or shove her peanut butter sandwich into my mouth. I don’t know that I would have swatted away my kid like she was a pesky horsefly, like BBC Dad did, but I do get why he looked tense.
Jancee Dunn’s new book How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids (Little, Brown) is available now! In it, she tackles the last taboo subject of parenthood: the startling, white-hot fury that new (and not-so-new) mothers often have for their mates.