Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Multi-tasking vs. Obsesssing

I’ve never been that good at multi-tasking, which is bad news for me as a mom. I mean sure, I can fold laundry while watching TV. I can carry things up the stairs as I go, a skill which seems to elude the other family members. I can talk on the phone while cleaning up my “craft” room (or as I sometimes like to call it, “crap” room.) But only with my sister, because I don’t know anyone else who will tolerate a hour-long conversation that is interspersed with long pauses, and random comments, such as, “yeah, right, like I’m ever going to sew that thing,” and “when the hell did I buy this?” and “That’s where the birthday party decorations are.”

So other than those examples, I’m terrible at multi-tasking. This is mostly because I HATE it. If I could live in an ideal world, I would never, ever have to do anything remotely resembling multi-tasking. I’ve been this way for a long time. In school, I would actually do homework all at once, IN ADVANCE, just so I wouldn’t have to ruin yet another day with homework. Yes, I’ll admit it--what I’d rather do, falls dangerously close to the level of “obsessing.”

So last week, I spend several days obsessively cleaning in the kitchen, scrubbed the hell out the oven door (inside and out), picked dried-up bits out of the filter with a toothpick (It’s an downdraft so food splatters can really gunk up that filter and for some reason, dish soap has no effect on baked on egg residue). Vacuumed under the oven, scrubbed the oven racks, toothbrushed and dustbusted the crumbs in the crack between the oven and counter. And that was pretty much all I did that day, because despite my obsession, as a mom, I was forced against my will into multi-tasking anyway, even though I would have preferred to move on to scrubbing the baseboards (I couldn’t help noticing their disgusting state while I was on the floor vacuuming under the oven).

Instead of baseboards, I had to pick up a child from school, make dinner, tend to a three-year-old who was sing-songing “I did a poo-poo on the pot-ty and I’m do-one” (yes, done is a two syllable word). I also very meanly responded to all requests to “Play with me Mommy,” by suggesting that “Clean the Oven,” was the fun game of the day, which actually worked for a while. But the next day, when I suggested “wash cabinets and walls” as the day’s play, I got a little more push-back.

I will be honest, because I don’t want any of you to get the wrong idea and think that I spend my life obsessively cleaning. (My hubby: "I wish you would"). No, no, that is just an example. I also get the same way about my leisure activities, which is why, this week, during two snow days with kids home from school, I spent my days obsessively attached to YouTube and I-tunes, updating my I-pod and creating a new mix CD for the car. Obsession may also explain why I’ve been listening to my old mix CD since OCTOBER. Yeah, I’m due for a new music obsession.

I also blame my social ineptness on my inability to multi-task. Either I remember what I want to say, or I listen to other people. Can’t seem to do both. Then I end up bluntly demanding, “When are those pizzas coming?” when I see the mom I ordered them from for her kids’ school fundraiser. I apologize for not saying hello, but seriously, if I had, I’d probably forget to ask about the pizzas. I’m amazed that I even managed that much.

Recent research seems to debunk the myth of multitasking, saying that it makes people less efficient. Well, duh. I mean just look at how little laundry gets folded, if Grey’s Anatomy takes a break from Meredith and Christina whining, and focuses instead on one of the McHotties.

Unfortunately, mommyhood doesn’t ascribe to the latest research, so my children still expect to be fed, even if I’d rather keep organizing the pantry, nor can they harness their desire for “playing” and confine it to a specific “play day”. So I’m stuck, multi-tasking, inefficiently, reluctantly, and often badly.


  1. This must be genetic. I daily struggle with impatience when I get asked every five minutes for juice. Why can't they all just understand that there is scheduled snack time where I will focus solely on their juice needs? Right now I need all my energy to organize my grocery list by aisle location...

  2. There is nothing funnier than watching a little kid try to multitask. Sometimes, when my little boy is being particularly rowdy and has made a huge mess, I tell him he can do (random fun thing) after he puts everything away. He never knows where to start so I helpfully give him advice.

    "See the pull-ups all over the floor? Pick them all up and put them back in your drawer." He spends a lot of time trying to pick all 26 of them up in one armload. He can manage about 10 before he starts dropping them, but he doesn't notice that he is dropping them, so he just keeps picking them up over and over again.

    When he finally begins to notice that there is a problem, but before he gets angry, I helpfully suggest that he take two or three trips to do it. So he takes a small handfull and heads toward his room. Then I say, "Oooh, don't trip on that toy you left there! Make sure you take that to your room too!" So he tries to pick that up and drops all the pullups. "Ooooh, make sure you put the pullups away, and don't forget to put the books back on the shelf, and see that over there..."

    On a good day, I can get an extra hour of paper-grading done while he is caught in one of these pick-and-drop cleaning loops.


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