Never Explain. Never Apologize.

First shared on LinkedIn on February 22, 2021.

One day last week, every meeting I had was not only all-women; they were all-mothers (!). Smart, accomplished women with the chops to match their titles. Three video discussions (Zoom/Teams/Webex), three different companies. One client, two vendor partners. And in each of these meetings, a woman profusely apologized for their child being, well, a kid to other moms. And for once (?), that apologizing woman wasn’t me.

I’m not referring to a courtesy, “Sorry for the interruption,” or “Hey folks, I’m going on mute/dark for five.” I mean sincerely apologizing, sometimes at length, for working while mom-ing.

Every apology dinged my heart a bit. I hate seeing women, especially moms, struggle at work. I know I struggle all the time.

Our son is four and an only child. He freely shares his opinions and is decidedly not shy (well-played, karma, well-played). He thinks nothing of zoom-bombing me when I’m on a work call. He can be charming and show off his Monster Jam Trucks. So. Many. Trucks. He can be quite forthright with his irritation that my meeting is not over. Zero poker face. Fierce side-eye. When he earnestly explains to colleagues that, yes, aliens have ribs, he is the best kid on Earth. When he tells an SVP that he (the SVP) is boring, I can’t manage WFH. When my son has a pyrotechnic meltdown on camera because a commercial interrupted his T-Rex Ranch YouTube marathon, I am a terrible mama.

The first sentence in the paragraph above is the only one that is real. Okay, maybe the first two sentences.

Our son is four and an only child.

He and I are doing the best we can.

Our experiences may all be different, but we are all living with COVID. A gentle suggestion to my sister mamas: please stop apologizing. Kids participating in their parents’ workday is one of the new normals. Everyone: please remind us.

Dear Colleagues and Bosses: refuse the apology. No matter how graciously you say, “It’s okay, don’t worry about it,” you are not sending the same message as saying, “No apologies needed.” Next time you’re on a large Zoom/Teams/Webex, take a few seconds to see who has turned their camera off. Has every single mom on your team gone dark, even when their leadership “strongly encourages” video? I continue to witness this phenomenon, almost one year into SIP, and independent of the company. Ask yourself why.

“Well, I don’t mind little kids; I remember those days well,” you may say.

Well, maybe this isn’t about you.

Tell your teams that video during meetings is optional. For everyone. Do this and level about a yard of the playing field (which is better than nothing). Video conferencing from home has, in some cases, imposed an intimacy that some work relationships have not earned or, frankly, deserve. We’re sharing glimpses of our bedrooms, our kitchens, our pets, our families, our chaos, our solitude. Let’s not apologize for our lives, and let’s understand that not everyone wants to or can share them.