By now you’ve seen the video of Robert Kelly, an expert on foreign policy, giving an interview on developments in South Korea to the BBC, only to be upstaged by his children (and if you haven't seen it, check it out below).
In the video, Kelly keeps it together while trying to scoot his toddler back out of the room, but everything falls apart when the baby comes gliding in, riding a walker across the room. Moments later, his wife, Jung-a Kim, flies in and attempts to quickly remedy the situation. And as anyone who has ever tried to contain young children can guess, the situation is not quickly remedied. When she does manage to get them out the door, Kelly resumes his interview to the sounds of wailing children in the background. “My apologies,” he says repeatedly.
The moment when children and work collide is one that any mom is familiar with. Running out of a meeting to vomit in the bathroom, spilling breast milk all over the shared refrigerator, trying to talk to your boss over the sounds of a toddler demanding crackers, the dreaded “you need to pick your child up, he has a fever” phone call—all moments working moms experience on a regular basis.
Perhaps part of the reason that this video has gone so gleefully viral is that moms are happy to see a dad share in this chaos. While we would have all wished to spare him the humiliation, it’s undoubtedly nice for the world to see that it is not just mothers, but also fathers, who have occasionally have trouble balancing work and home.
Women, despite becoming an ever increasing percentage of the workforce, still bear the brunt of discrimination against parents in the workplace. Mothers are less likely to be hired than a woman without kids, and are paid a lower salaries than other women. Fathers, on the other hand, are more likely to be given a higher salary. Employers assume that the mother will be doing all of the taking time off to care for sick children or leaving early to help with a school party, and are seen as a riskier hire. In contrast, they assume a father probably has a wife at home, or at the very least available, to handle all parenting emergencies that should arise.
The more mothers are working, the more fathers need to be available at home. This changing dynamic means that yes, occasionally it will be the father leaving early to pick a sick kid up from school, showing up at work with spit up all over his collar, or even having an interview crashed on live TV.
This video is a triumph for feminism. Working moms have spent ages offering their apologies to everyone in their vicinity—apologizing to their employers for having children, apologizing to their children for having a job. The saying goes that they must work as if they have no children, and parent as if they have no job. It’s an impossible standard, and perhaps it’s time to stop pretending anyone can reach it—mother or father.
Kelly would have likely preferred to become a household name for his expertise on Northeast Asia rather than his children’s antics. It’s the same for women everywhere who aren’t taken as seriously in their careers for choosing to also have a family life. Despite this mishap, it’s clear that he’s managing both extremely well. With the BBC asking him to share his expert opinions, and children bouncing in to say hello, he’s obviously doing more than one thing right. And so are the millions of working women who balance family and careers every day. Even if one of those proverbial spinning plates occasionally drops on live television.
Watch the full video here: