Sunday, August 21, 2016

Business Calls with Baby Background Noise

The cat and I will be quiet, Mommy. Promise!

What are the odds a baby will stay quiet? Being a work-at-home mom in a position that requires professional calling, while I care for my infant, has been one of my tougher challenges. Babies are unpredictable. She could be perfectly content to play quietly as I work. She could silently nurse while I chat. Best of all: she could nap. But there's no guarantee she'll stay asleep for my entire call. She's a noise bomb with an unknown timer!

What's a working mom to do? Honestly, I haven't mastered this yet. I've had a few calls per week for the past five weeks in this new position, usually 30 to 60 minutes in length. So, I've had some practice. But I'm still learning how to handle this and I don't always get it right.

My calls take two forms: internal and external. Internal calls are by far easier. I'm very fortunate to work for a company that is family-friendly. So grateful! Many of my coworkers are also stay-at-home parents and can empathize. When my little one woke from a nap during a conference call with two coworkers, she made herself known. She squealed and blew raspberries. She was entirely cute and unknowingly inappropriate.

Right now, I live and work in a hotel room. I tried to put some distance between me and the noise-maker, but she followed me. 'Mommy! I'm coming!' she conveyed in baby talk as she crawled after me. Wherever I was, she came making noise. My coworkers didn't comment. I hope they didn't mind.

External calls are a lot harder. The people I communicate with outside of my company don't know I'm a work-at-home mom and expect the professionalism of an office environment. I was quite embarrassed when my baby woke up from a nap and began to cry as I was wrapping up an interview. Thankfully, the call was winding down, but her screams encouraged me to hang up pretty fast. I have no way to know if the colleague on the other line was irked or understanding.

My baby is eight months old. She doesn't understand phone calls, words such as “hush,” or even the concept of quiet. Her instinctual need to communicate with me in any way often requires sound. She also enjoys testing and discovering her voice with singing, buzzing, and baby talking. I enjoy her happy noise-making and don't want to discourage it.

Here are some tips I've learned to help minimize background noise on calls:

  • Use the mute button. Best when on conference calls or when the person on the other line is monologuing.

  • Distract her. My baby is often quieter when given a new object to study. This doesn't work for long, but sometimes it's long enough.

  • Feed her milk. If she's in the mood, she'll nurse silently for a long time. She's often content to silently play with my top, my necklace, or my face while she suckles. Or she'll just stare into my eyes. If I'm very lucky, she'll drift off to sleep. If I'm unlucky, she'll grab at my phone or my laptop. If she was bottle fed, same principle.

  • Feed her snacks. My eight-month-old has an insatiable appetite for solid food. If I continue to stuff her mouth with small bits of whatever food I have on hand, she'll keep consuming it. If I give her something she can hold onto such as a baby carrot or a celery stick, she'll keep chomping on it with her two little teeth so long as I keep picking it up and handing it to her when she drops it.

  • Stuff her mouth with non-food. Teething toys are good mouth-stuffers, but she'll lose interest after a few minutes. She used to suck on blankets and plush toys. She especially loves ripping up paper and putting it in her mouth, but I have to take care that she doesn't actually swallow much of it.

  • Distance myself. This is difficult when stuck in one room, but even a few feet can make a difference. When desperate, I've left the room to talk in the hallway for a few minutes at a time, knowing she's safe in a blocked-off baby-proofed area of the room. In the future when we're settled into our new house, I'm considering creating a closed baby-safe playroom with a video baby monitor to observe her from another room while I'm on calls.

  • Get back-up. Rarely is my husband home when I'm on a business call, but when he is, he can watch her while I slip away. I haven't yet hired childcare while I work, but I am considering it.

How do you handle calls with a baby in the background? Any tips?

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