There is no question that American business expects you to be 100% focused on your work, at least during the weekdays (though other times are fine too.) Working from home therefore has its unique challenges, on numerous levels. It can also be quite amusing, though the humor may not always be apparent in the moment.

Here's a typical recent challenge: I am having a professional phone conversation. Suddenly, from across the house, my trained, always-alert ears pick up the beginning of a wail, albeit still faint. Uh-oh. I feel my stomach drop a little, and a small feeling of panic starts to rise — The wail is gaining in intensity, the volume is increasing I know what's coming, I know I'm doomed, there is no escape. The wail is gaining in intensity, the volume is increasing, its source is rapidly getting closer. And closer. Then, it's here! My 4-year-old is banging on the French door window-panes, 6 feet away from where I sit using my desk-phone, howling "EEEEE-MMMAAAAA! HE HIT ME! I NEEEEED YOUUUUU!!!!" (Don't think me callous, I'm a bit jaded since this occurs many times a day.)

If the other party is still speaking, I simultaneously punch the "mute" button as fast as I can to drown out my background accompaniment, pray that by some miracle the other person didn't hear her blood-curdling wails, and begin yelling myself for my babysitter to come get my beloved daughter and take care of her. If the phone conversation now requires me to actually have to say something cogent during all this activity, I try to time my release of the "mute" button to match my daughter's next pause for breath, then speak as fast as I can and punch the Mute button again. Needless to say, I probably missed most or all of what the person on the other end was saying the first time around, so I can only hope that somehow I still sound coherent and remotely on-topic.

Thank G‑d for the "mute" button, but I've found I'm not as slick as I'd hoped. I would prefer to think that my tactics to try to maintain a professional image to my unseen phone audience work, at least sometimes. Unfortunately, I get occasional feedback to the contrary. One day, I thought I'd successfully used my "mute" button to mask the Crash! Bang! Clang! sounds from the play-kitchen next door to my office. The woman on the phone was someone with whom I'd just entered into discussions about possible work — I didn't know her well. Just when I thought the construction next door had been effectively muted, she commented sympathetically, "Oh, I remember those days, when I would try to have a professional conversation and my children were making noise right outside my door." Sigh.

My work colleagues have zero interest in me as a mommy

I guess if I chose to, I could be frustrated that I should "hide" my mommy persona from my work acquaintances. But I accept that this is the way American business is, and theoretically, I don't mind. I understand that if someone engages with me as a work colleague, they may not be interested in any of the other roles I play. Just as much as my 4-year-old daughter has zero interest or comprehension of my work role, my work colleagues may have zero interest in me as a mommy. That's fine — I may not be interested in any of the other roles that my work colleagues play either. But what it comes down to is, it's tough to juggle two or more roles, for two or more different audiences, at the same exact point in time.

But upon reflection, I realize that it is not my daughter who I really want to be muting. It is my feeling of embarrassment about the occasional sounds of children in the background that could use a good press of that mute button. Because my noisy, lively children are my priority in life. They are the reason why I am working from home in the first place and why these distractions are even a possible. But thank G‑d, I can figure out my work-life to include distractions like these. Thank G‑d, I have these distractions. And thank G‑d, at least sometimes, I am able to appreciate them and the humor and perspective they bring to my life. (Fittingly, I just noticed that my 2-year-old has carefully situated her beloved tiny pink wooden duck on top of my phone.)

So what I suspect I really need a better "mute button" for is not the background noise of my children, but the background noise in my own head — that loud internal voice that occasionally obscures what my priority really is, and mutes my fundamental gratitude and appreciation to G‑d for them.