It's called multitasking.
I think that we moms have a built in ability to multitask because sometimes we just have to do it. If I stopped everything else and cooked dinner for an hour each night, my family would be in real trouble. But when I use the time that dinner is cooking to fold the laundry and pick up around the house, I'm putting that time into good use. So multitasking is often a very necessary and very good thing.
I can be the queen of multitasking.
But at some point over my years of motherhood, I began to realize that multitasking all the time was not so good. Too many times trying to get so many things done at once was robbing me of the joy of the present moment.
This is probably a scene that all of us can relate to. Mom takes children to the park to enjoy nice weather after lunch. Mom leaves behind a sink full of dirty dishes and some unwashed loads of clothes. As mom drives to the park, listening to little voices chatting away to her, she's thinking of the dirty dishes, unwashed clothes, and what she's going to cook for dinner. Oh, yes, she'll have to stop by the store on the way home from the park because she doesn't have all the ingredients for dinner.
After some time, she realizes that one of the children has asked her repeatedly from the back seat, "Did you hear me, Mommy?" To which she gives a distracted affirmative mumble. When they all get to the park, she unloads the crew, trying to keep up with the sweet, excited voices talking happily about what they're going to do at the park.
As the kids head off to play, one little one tugs on her hand. "Come hold me on the monkey bars, Mama!" But she really needs to make the grocery list for supper. Instead of going to play, she sits down on the bench to watch and begins making the grocery list on her phone. At the same time one of the kids' friend's parents begins to text to work out a time for a birthday party coming up.
Now, mom is watching the kids attentively. She's not being neglectful. But instead of playing with them, she's planning what groceries to purchase, trying to work out the playdate times, and worrying about the undone things waiting for her at home.
I'm not giving this little scenario to make you feel guilty, friend. I've been there, done that many, many, many times. And, sometimes, I think that multitasking is something we moms just can't avoid. But there are times that we just need to stop and be present in the moment. Because if we're not careful, multitasking can rob us of joy.
We miss important conversations with our children.I love to listen to podcasts while I'm doing work around the house. When I'm cleaning the kitchen after supper or folding clothes or cleaning in the bathrooms, I usually have a podcast playing in the background. I'm learning while I work- multitasking. But when the kids come up to talk to me, I pause the podcast and try to stop what I'm doing and stand still and listen.
I've caught some important conversations this way. I've listened to kids share things that are making them happy, things they're worried about, important things they needed to ask. The easy thing would be to just let them talk while I'm still working and listening and then make some half-hearted response, but the easy thing isn't the best thing.
We make our family members feel less valuable than whatever tasks we're doing.Ouch. This is definitely not what I try to do. If you ask, I'll tell you in a heartbeat that my husband is more important than that chore that just can't wait. But that isn't what I actually communicate to him sometimes.
When I try to do one million things at the same time and still "listen" to my husband and kids, I'm communicating to them that they aren't valuable enough for me to stop what I'm doing and listen.
I know what you might be thinking. Yes, there are times that what I'm doing just can't wait. And it's okay for the kids to learn that the world doesn't stop for them. Sometimes I have to ask them to wait. But if I'm typically willing to stop and listen, and if I'm actually pausing, acknowledging them, and then giving them a specific reason I can't stop and a specific time that I will be able to stop and listen to them, then I'm still communicating that they are valuable and that conversation with them is important to me.
We miss the fun stuff.My kids are all getting older now. (That seems to happen no matter how much I might wish otherwise...sometimes.) With new perspective, I can look back and remember times when I abandoned all I "had" to do and just had fun with the kids- times I stood with them at the park and watched all their tricks, times I traipsed through hot and buggy woods to find an illusive geocache, times that we just stopped and laughed at their crazy antics in the midst of a homeschooling day.
I love those memories. And sometimes I wish I had left the dirty dishes and made more of them.
Mama, don't let multitasking rob you of joy. No matter how many times you stress over all you need to get done, you'll never get it all done. But, you can stop trying so hard and just have fun in the present.
Enjoy the present moment. Don't let multitasking rob you of joy.