Making Radio At Home In Kiddie Land

Parents with small children at home are juggling jobs and childcare around the clock. WBEZ reporters know that drill.

Working At Home
WBEZ Reporter Natalie Moore's daughter Skye likes to use her toy phone to pretend she's interviewing news makers as her mom works from home. Courtesy of Natalie Moore
Working At Home
WBEZ Reporter Natalie Moore's daughter Skye likes to use her toy phone to pretend she's interviewing news makers as her mom works from home. Courtesy of Natalie Moore

Making Radio At Home In Kiddie Land

Parents with small children at home are juggling jobs and childcare around the clock. WBEZ reporters know that drill.

Working from home is a privilege not everyone gets during the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, it comes with challenges, especially if you have young, energetic children. My job is creating radio stories. I need a quiet place to record. And most people frown on being interviewed with a toddler crying in the background.

My daughter Skye will be 4 years old this week. Whenever I’m about to conduct and record an interview, I pull her to the side and ask her to be quiet. “I have an interview, too,” is her typical response. “With whom?” I ask.

Nancy Pelosi is her go to interview, and she uses a play telephone.

There’s no such thing as a quiet house with kids. It’s like take-your-daughter-to-work day on repeat. Skye has interrupted every interview I’ve done since I’ve been working from home the past month. There are giggles, tears, PBS kids in the background or pleas to join the conversation. Just to say “hello.”

My WBEZ colleagues understand. Reporters, producers and editors live on daily deadlines. Kids do not.

Reporter Esther Yoon-Ji Kang once had to patiently wait to push play on her recorder so her 4-year-old daughter Kezi could finish crunching an apple. Kezi is also on to the reporter’s trick of recording at home under a blanket to muffle sound. Another colleague, reporter Becky Vevea, once tried to get a city council member on the phone, while her 10-month-old son cried outside his mother’s bedroom-office door. Reporter Susie An has two high-energy boys whose arguments sometimes escalate, occasionally while she’s working on a radio piece. Reaching for a compliment, their mother says 2-year-old Gael and 6-year-old Oggie “like to make up their own rules.”

Producer Andrew Gill has a new boss. He’s taking orders from 5-year-old Albie, who created his own pandemic podcast.

I am sure many of you are struggling to distract children so you can do your job while keeping calm in the face of uncertainty.

Lori Orlinsky wrote tips for working at home with children for magazine Chicago Parent. She and her husband live in Jefferson Park; they have two daughters, ages 7 and 4.

I’m happy Orlinsky didn’t scoff at a habit I’ve picked up.

“We’ve really loosened our limits on screen time. We’ve let our kids watch some of the movies and some of the shows during the day. But desperate times call for desperate measures,” she said.

Don’t get hung up on schedules, Orlinsky said. They won’t stick. Try to spend quality family time together. Her girls like to put on performances, and the family decorated their windows to entertain people passing by.

“I would also suggest designating an area at home for your home office. I would not make that area a living room or kitchen.”

But most important, take a deep breath and adopt a roll-with-the-punches attitude.

“Eventually this too will pass. Let’s make sure we’re not being hard ourselves as parents,” Orlinsky said.

I’ll try.

In the meantime, let me go see if Skye wants a musical dance break with “The Wiz” or Alvin Ailey.

And I really need to take my home office out of the kitchen.