Miranda: Multi-tasking my way to a new low
If you’re a mother, you know how to do at least six things at once.
But should you?
Apparently, it depends on just which six things you have in mind.
Yesterday, Lifehacker posted an interesting take on the pitfalls of multitasking in an interview with Dave Crenshaw, author of The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done. “Crenshaw explains the difference between ‘background tasking’ — like watching TV while exercising — and ‘switchtasking,’ juggling two tasks by refocusing your attention back and forth between them, and losing time and progress in the switch.” The Lifehacker blog post centers on how this issue plays out in the business world.
Interestingly, Simple Mom posted the mother’s analysis of the same topic yesterday:
A Mama’s Challenge
Here’s the irony. With children at home, it often feels impossible for us to focus on anything more than two minutes at a time, because we’re constantly interrupted. As soon as I sit down to update our bank accounts, my daughter wants me to sharpen her colored pencils, or my son has dropped his toy for the umpteenth time and needs help retrieving it.
It’s the stage of life, and it is what it is. Small children require a lot of hands-on, interactive parenting, and while it’s a short-lived job, it leaves you utterly exhausted come bedtime, doesn’t it?
Even though I’d love to single-task most of my day jobs, it just isn’t going to happen. What mom doesn’t multi-task all day long? You’ve got to change the diaper and answer the phone. You oftentimes need to read to your older one while you nurse your younger.
For Simple Mom, the bottom line is that “There are more important things in life than getting things done.”
While multi-tasking is often our only shot at snippets of creativity and seeming productivity, each of us has to determine our own threshold here. I happened to find my own personal limit yesterday. I share this publicly only in the hope that my story will serve as a cautionary tale to other mothers attempting the Superwoman thing.
At noon, I was finishing up the week’s menu plan, trying to make the grocery list, fixing an issue with the blog, answering e-mail, greeting my mother who’d just arrived at my house, nursing the baby, and trying to make sure my 3-year-old didn’t run off by himself for an opportunity to poop privately in his Pull-Up (we’re still toilet training). My daughter called from a friend’s house, asking for a ride home. She was in our neighborhood, within walking distance, but the timing was convenient so I said, “Sure — I’m running out to the grocery store with Grandma. We’ll pick you up on the way, in 15 minutes.”
What happened? I forgot to pick her up.
As in, I went to the grocery store without picking her up as planned. When she called me on my cell phone to ask where I was, I slipped into a heart-stopping abyss of guilt. Thankfully, since my own mother was in the car, she helped me strategize how to explain the situation to my daughter (as we drove at top speed to retrieve her) in an attempt to save her from a life on the therapist’s couch. My daughter (12 years old) gave me a good-natured ribbing, but even though she was gracious about the situation, I knew it had to have hurt. What is more painful to a mother than causing her own child pain?
I have never actually “forgotten” any of my children before, and I desperately hope never to do it again. I’d like to use sleep deprivation, an infant, a tally of five kids, pressing client work, and having my house on the market as some kind of defense. But sadly, there is no defense, and I know that. Perhaps, if I slow down just a little — and stop trying to do 34 things at one time — my brain will function a bit more efficiently. Until then, I have a lot of making up to do with my one and only daughter.
[Photo courtesy Foxtongue.]