We do it, most every minute of every hour in every day. But, we do it at the cost of joy and sanity.
My daughter asks me for things multiple times. She reminds me that I forgot to give her milk or pick the right book. I regularly am listening to one child and talking to a second. The quiet one on one time is often distracted by my thoughts of how destroyed the room will be when they are done with their game of “Baby and Mama Bear.” Doing one thing at one time, thinking about one thing at one time is a skill I haven’t mastered or perhaps had the luxury to experience. Even now, I sit at my kitchen table with two computers open, the Bible flipped to Matthew, my phone vibrating, and my homeschool curriculum open. A full table, a full mind, less than I wish accomplished.
This is my view most days. An unaccomplishable task list on my counter which I check as I grab plates out of the cabinet above hoping that in the quiet moments I remember what I needed to do.
Multitasking is a thief and a necessity. But, if we never learn the appropriate times to use it and to disengage from it will we ever succeed? Will anything every get done the way we hoped? I venture to say, no!
My four-year-old daughter goes to sleep every night with the same words, “Mommy, will you check on me and scratch my back?” Every time I reach in the cabinet to get cups out for them she asks the same question, “Can I have the blue cup?” She knows that I forget. These examples I do not forget, I cannot forget. It isn’t because she repeats them each and every day. They are unforgettable because they are asked in quiet. She walks into the dark, quiet hallway after bedtime to find me and asks if I will come back before I am in bed. She stands at my feet to request her favorite cup. The moments are still.
Multitasking does not create stillness, it creates chaos. We do it with the hope that more will get done. But in my house it doesn’t get done well, efficiently, or lovingly. Tasks get completed with a sense of urgency and stress that should be designated for flying out the door for stitches when one slices a finger. My children get left behind as I cook dinner, wash dishes and load the dishwasher. Their creativity gets squashed as I stand over them with a sponge cleaning up spilled paint and sweeping the kinetic sand off the floor.
Within a day, week or month if there isn’t time for it all shouldn’t something have to go? I feel stressed by the pile of toys, laundry, and shoes that need to be put away. There seems to be little time to walk individual items to their home so I make a holding place for loose ends. I can never find anyone’s shoes when it is time to go because the last time we left the house we stayed somewhere too long, arrived home late for lunch and naps and I didn’t take the ten seconds needed to remind and help put their shoes away. I entered the house calling orders to them as I walked to the kitchen, starting lunch, letting the dog out, unloading groceries…multitasking. They didn’t ignore me, they weren’t being disobedient. They didn’t hear me. Multitasking got lunch on the table, it got us fed and put down for naps. But it didn’t allow for engagement; it didn’t allow for relationship. Mothering takes time, intentional interaction, repetition and close contact.
Multitasking turns me into a maid, a cook and a housekeeper. My goal of having clean rooms, obedient kids, a peaceful home, folded laundry, painted walls, organized closets, toned body, and a calendar of meal plans requires so much multitasking that it leaves us eating take-out pizza in our need-to-be-washed pajamas on a Play-doh covered table with tears in our eyes – joyless and feeling insane.