As a mom, I have become exceptionally good at multitasking. I have taken conference calls while taking temperatures. I have written blog posts on my iPhone from the waiting room of the orthodontist’s office. I have arranged an entire summer, including booking family vacation reservations, securing a summer sitter, and checking dates for camps in the expanse of five red lights and one lengthy carpool line.
I didn’t always used to be like this. I had a poster of a surfer taped to my bedroom wall in 9th grade which read, “Time you enjoy wasting is never wasted time.” Humph. Who even was that girl?
These days time has become such a premium that even doing one solitary task at a time makes me feel like a slacker. And relaxing has become a guilt-ridden dirty word.
I remember the first trip to the spa I had after having my first child. What should have been a blessedly relaxing experience was the first taste of my brain’s inability to stop multitasking.
First up was some type of facial procedure. After slathering my face with goo, the aesthetician cheerfully announced that I would be spending the next thirty minutes in complete solitude while the goo did its thing. She padded away quietly, certain she had made my year.
It felt like torture. It felt like forever. It felt like jail.
I kept taking my (contraband) cell phone out of the robe pocket and thinking of all the things I could or should have been doing in that thirty minutes.
Toilets needed to be scrubbed. Dinner needed to be prepared. Emails needed to be returned. Meetings needed to be scheduled. Grocery items needed to be purchased. A baby needed to be snuggled and probably also needed a follow-up trip to the pediatrician to check on the status of that ear infection. A husband deserved at least some semblance of conversation…
Next up on my spa day was a massage. Now, this was the part I was really looking forward to. Five minutes in I was sound asleep, drooling into the face cradle. After my spa experience came to a close, I had forked over my credit card for 30 minutes of pore-minimizing jail time and a really expensive hour-long nap.
It was at that moment I knew for at least the next decade or two I would have two speeds: multitasking and asleep.
It sounds crazy, but I’ve grown so accustomed to multitasking that I feel like I function better when I’m pushed for time.
If I only have five minutes to do five things, they will all get done in five minutes. But if I have an hour, somehow they will take an hour, and I probably won’t remember everything. It’s like I’m a junkie for getting stuff done. But at what expense?
Being a multitasking mom is kind of like standing in front of a tennis ball machine. You’ve managed to hit most of the balls over the net at first so you kick up the speed. The balls keep coming faster and faster and from different directions. You are still hitting most of the balls over the net but others are pooling around your feet.
A couple are over the fence, rolling into traffic. And then there’s one or two that find their way onto the next court where they certainly don’t belong, and you find yourself apologizing profusely for your inadequacy.
Somehow the majority of the tasks I’m knocking down are coming out unscathed. And that’s where the deception lies. It’s me – and the other humans in my life – that are paying the price for my task addiction, and that’s where I’m dropping the proverbial ball.
I feel so much better about myself when I’m more people-focused than task-focused, and I’m pretty sure the others in my life would say the same. And while mass chaos would ensue if we all ignored the deadlines and responsibilities of life to lounge with loved ones day in and day out, I’m sure I could do a better job of focusing on what – and who – matters most.