Usually I wear multitasking like a bad ass badge of honor. Yes, I answered emails while carrying a whiny preschooler on my hip and navigating an extra large cart around the grocery store like a champ. Because I’m a BOSS.
Only not really.
Because, when I’m being totally honest with myself, multitasking never results in a job well done. My email will be partially incoherent, I’ll inevitably forget something essential at the store and my four year old and I will be so irritated with each other that we’ll both be whining shrilly and ready to full-on tantrum by the time I slam the trunk of the car.
When your attention is split in 87 different directions you can’t possibly do a good job.
So why do we (women in particular) place so much of our self worth on exactly how many balls we have up in the air?
Somewhere in our bustling lives, we were told that days brimming with activity means that we’re successful. We took it as truth and ran like hell with it, shoving soccer practices, piano lessons, and various school and work functions into every crevice of our lives. Every last second of our day is spoken for and to get everything done we have to juggle more than one of them at once. The only way we can even pretend to do it all is by multitasking.
This helps no one. The result are impatient, frazzled mommas and kids who have no idea how to be bored or how to entertain themselves. And don’t think I’m lecturing, my friends. I’m just as guilty as the next bleary-eyed girl.
Pretty much any afternoon, approximately 4 p.m.
The island in our kitchen is a sea of papers and crumbs. School papers are spilling out of folders that are partially hidden beneath orange Cheese Doodle dust and half-emptied lunchboxes. My laptop, notebook and planner are also spread out in the small corner I can claim as my own. There were little pads of Post-Its somewhere, but the four year old started writing her house rules on them and they’re now lost somewhere under the pile.
Tension runs high. The nine year old just finished her (insane) math homework. The four year old is running laps, desperate for something to do. I repeat the same mantra over and over: Just give me a few more minutes, guys. As soon as I wrap this up, we’ll do something fun.
But it never happens. I write half a sentence and stop to listen to a reenactment of something hilarious that happened at lunch. When the story is over, it takes a good five minutes to remember where my sentence was going. I start to get back into the flow, get maybe a half paragraph written when shrieks alert me to the war happening in the room next to me. I turn my head to the left, lasers shooting out of my eyes as I repeat my mantra.
No one is happy. No real work gets done. Yet the cycle rages on.
Why do we keep going when we know it doesn’t work? Why do we keep living perpetually distracted lives when it only makes us miserable?
We need to let go of the idea that multitasking makes us bad ass. We need to kill it.
I’m sure that fills some of you with panic. I’d be lying if I said I thought I’d have an easy time. I work from home during whatever pockets of time I can claim as my own. Sometimes, when I’m up against a tight deadline, I have to claim pockets that aren’t exactly convenient. But I have to find a better way. I can’t be a good mom and good at my work if I’m trying to do both but not really doing either.
Can we stop?
This post is part of my 52 Essays project. This year I have set a goal for myself to write one finished piece every week(ish). I’m not sure what you can expect from them because I’m sort of winging it. Some will be good. Some will be less good. Hopefully you’ll love them. Maybe you’ll hate them. We’ll just have to wait and see. 😉 15/52