I thought COVID-19 had really mixed my family’s home and work life until this morning. The morning my son brought his classroom into this shower while I was taking a shower

We have all seen the comic strips or YouTube clips of video conferences going wrong. My word! I am training companies on the protocol around virtual interaction at the moment – and then this happens to me?

Clearly, I need to teach this protocol to my 7-year old as well. Maybe starting with where the mute button is? (Ironically, that was his innocent request this morning, while I was in the shower). So – never mind how much the rest of his class saw of mom, they definitely also heard her explain in no uncertain terms, how quickly Dylan needed to get out of the bathroom. Sigh. I love Mrs. Mlambo – his grade 2 teacher – but never thought we would get to know each other this intimately. 

However, this is our new world. The new normal, or abnormal, I should say.

Homelife and school life mixed so closely (in the bathroom no less?). Homelife and professional life, layered and woven together. The experience so many of us have had during this self-isolation period.

Now you might be wondering why this (lazy?) mom was only making it to the shower @ 8:45 am…Good question, but trust me, there is an excellent reason too. This mother started working at 5:00 am, trying to find time when the kids wouldn’t need me. This mother was then trying to exercise between 7:00 – 8:00 am, within the window, our beloved government here in South Africa allows and ahead of child number one’s virtual classroom at 8:00 am. Onwards to breakfast preparation, packed lunch for Dad, 100 sandwiches for charity drive and a second child in virtual classroom @ 8:40 am. Hence – showering at 8:45 am!

You may be nodding, yes. Have you been there and experienced a similar morning routine? Or a similar morning abnormal routine? Some of you may be shocked that there was so much to do by 8:45 am? Others who now may just be judging a little less and having a bit more empathy for this mom.

 

Either way, back to the shower and the new normal…

I felt 100% exposed.

Vulnerable even.

This led me to begin thinking about the concept of exposing parts of your life you wouldn’t under normal circumstances. My colleague, Jen, wrote so beautifully about being exposed. Being human first, being vulnerable. And I love being a leader that chooses to be like this. But in an instant, in the shower, I realized that I like to control how much I expose. How vulnerable I am. And in times like these, we just can’t. You just can’t. I just couldn’t.

The old saying, attributed to Buddha Siddhartha Shakyamuni, goes: “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear…” I was ready.

I cannot control everything, especially not my situation. I can only control my reaction.

Combine this realization with a pre-existing personal belief of mine (that one should never take yourself too seriously), and I ended up laughing my head off. That was how I chose to react. Quickly joined by my grinning husband, who appeared in the bathroom to check what was going on, we laughed so much I didn’t immediately call the teacher to apologize as I planned. I then spent time explaining my shock and anger to my beloved, and momentarily startled, boy. Later that evening, I texted the teacher to apologize for our “mute-button-embarrassment!”

 

What does it mean then, to choose to be vulnerable?

To me – and backed by some solid theory – it means:

  • to admit when you don’t know the answer
  • to be innovatively crazy, despite the judgment this might bring
  • to be bravely real – not confidently perfect
  • to push beyond fear or shame (or fear OF shame!) – to greatness
  • to trust despite doubt
  • and yes, to let go of control for the greater good

When you do – you give other people permission to do the same & open up the possibility of real human connections.

For those of you wondering – of course – I also promptly taught Dylan how to mute himself on all devices and all platforms – forever!

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Author Elmien Brauns

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