In 2017, political scientist Robert Kelly became famous around the world as 'BBC Dad' when his toddler walked in on his interview while he was live on air.
In what went on to become one of the most-watched viral videos of all time, BBC Dad Kelly's annoyance was evident when his toddler nonchalantly gatecrashed his interview and did not seem to give two hoots about what her dad would say. Kelly's interview about a very serious political issue unravelling in North and South Korea soon took a backseat and his kids' antics became the talking point of the whole word.
Cut to three years later when the whole world is grappling to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and most organisations have switched to remote working on a temporary basis. Like Kelly, several people are now working from home, juggling kids and household chores while trying to meet deadlines, finish work on time and even give interviews live on air.
Recently, health policy expert Dr Claire Wenham was live on BBC discussing the impact of the lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. But she wasn't alone; her daughter Scarlett invaded the interview and tried grabbing the attention of her mother to just figure out where exactly she should keep her hand-crafted Unicorn.
This is the point where the anchor intervenes and asks his interviewee Dr Wenham her daughter's name. She responds and soon after the child comes running to the screen and asks his mother what the anchor's name is.
“Mummy what's his name?”
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) July 1, 2020
The two incidents are eerily similar. Both happened live on air on BBC. Both were discussing important issues pertaining to politics and pandemics when their kids crashed their interviews. Both parents seemed flustered and visibly annoyed with their kids who in turn seemed to not have a care in the world.
But there was something which seemed to stand out.
In case of Kelly, he did not have to lift a finger to tend to his kids, a toddler and his infant, because a few minutes into the viral video, you'll spot his wife barging in to take charge of the situation. In Wenham's case, however, the struggle most women face while working from home was evident.
According to a report by Economic and Political Weekly, while men and women in the United States were doing more housework than they previously did, the burden is seldom divided equally. The report said that 66% of women felt that childcare was their primary responsibility while 70% of the women said that the burden of household chores was mostly borne by them.
There is no data as such from India, but the social and cultural context prove that responsibility of housework and child care even when the whole world is working from home usually and mostly fall on the woman.
Soon after Kelly's interview went viral, a satirical programme in New Zealand starring comedian Kate Wordsworth did a parody which showed how mothers would react if they had been in Kelly's place.
The video showed Wordsworth lifting the kid up on her lap, feeding her, diffusing a bomb, roasting a chicken while simultaneously continuing with her interview.
The idea was to take a dig at Kelly for relying on his wife to take care of the kids while he carried on with his interview. But here's the thing - as Redbookmag pointed out, we really cannot judge Kelly as a Dad based on a 44-second video.
The parody has been criticised as sexist, with several women pointing out that this portrays them as primary caregivers and how that's not how real mothers behave. But isn't that what a majority of working mothers are facing today anyway?
According to a study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies which takes into account the work-from-home habits of parents during the lockdown, women are interrupted more than men by their kids. The report shows that during the lockdown, women have been able to afford only one hour of uninterrupted work as compared to three hours for men.
The same report also showed that women were looking after their children for at least ten hours each day while balancing work at the same time - 2 to 3 hours more than their husbands and partners. It also showed that 43% of women are more likely to quit or lose their jobs and reduce working hours.
Claire Wenham's interview, funny and adorable as it may be, is an example of the stark reality that has become all the more evident during the lockdown - women were, and still continue to be the primary caregiver for their children. She does not feed the child and conquer the world during her interview as Wordsworth's parody showed. Her actions are more subtle - she speaks into the camera, addresses UK's lockdown policy, but her attention is focused on her child in the background prancing about.
No, we're not labelling Kelly as patriarchal - we're simply saying that while he had the luxury to turn a blind eye to his kids, Wenham did not even though their circumstances might be different and even incomparable.