Our worlds move so fast these days. And if you’re like me you have a long to-do list everyday and you try to do everything at once. Multitasking isn’t always the best or most efficient way to get things done and frankly, some of us just can’t multitask.
We’ve all heard the common stereotype that moms are excellent multitaskers. They can make dinner, breastfeed, and comfort their toddler all at once. They can be talking to a friend and then stop mid conversation to yell at their child “Don’t eat that!” and continue right where the conversation was left. They can complete tasks and errands effortlessly while simultaneously caring for their offspring.
While this stereotype may fit some mommas, it most definitely does not fit this one. I cannot multitask well. And perhaps am even worse at it after having children. Although my thoughts can jump here and there and everywhere, my dialogue and actions can’t. I can’t carry on deep conversations with adults while my children are playing about me. Fake it as I may, I am only listening a third, parenting a third, and shaming myself a third for being a bad friend and parent. I can’t prep for dinner while consoling my baby, nor send a text message while carting through the grocery aisles. At least not without a great sense of difficulty and overwhelm.
This used to really bother me. I felt that every other mother I saw was able to juggle all these balls and keep most of them from dropping. Whereas I could only keep one ball in my sights at a go. Ultimately, I felt that I was failing as others succeeded. That I was lacking some sort of characteristic mothers should instinctively have. But then, I admitted to myself what I was instead of what I was not.
I am a single-tasker.
Although I may not achieve quite the amount that others may in an hour, I have found that I still can add value as a single-tasking momma. For instance:
I give 100%.
When I can take 1 single task at a time, I excel in it. Not to say that my Pinterest recipe creations are a ‘nailed it’ by any means, but at least I can know my very best was given. When I sit to read my kids a story, just me and them, I become the Robin William of voices. When I am cheering on a team, I’m all in loud and crazy. It feels so good to do my best and know it.
I’m great at saying no.
Obviously with 3 kids there are times when I have to multi-task. But, I only do so when I truly have to. The excess of opportunities we have in this era is great, but also painstakingly exhausting. The sheer amount of decisions we have to make in a day for our families and little children is perhaps the highest it’s ever been. We simply can’t say yes to all the classes, playdates, toys, clothing, and equipment advertised our way. If we did this, our finances and energies would be sucked dry and there would be nothing left to give our precious children. As a single-tasker I have to minimize my tasks, and I can only do this by saying no to a lot of stuff. By saying no to most, I can say yes to best, which means I can prioritize with ease.
I am present.
Without the overwhelm and nagging of other tasks pulling me here and there, I’m truly present in life’s little moments. Mundane as they may seem to an outsider’s view, I’m relishing in the sounds, textures, and emotions of my current situation. When I rock my baby I’m not thinking about the dishes that need to be cleared or the phone call I need to make. I’m listening to the quick breaths of my baby that are starting to slow. I’m feeling the heaviness of that tiny little body rest in my arms. I’m noticing every finger twitch and eye rub he makes. I’m there. It’s just me, him, and the love that engulfs us. When I watch my kids run to the door to greet my husband, I stop cutting peppers and stare at their excited faces as the weight of the workday starts to sluff off his shoulders. To omit my screen and engage in life is still difficult, but perhaps a lot easier as a single-tasker. I know where I am and who I am with.
I’m a great listener.
If my children want to talk to me or tell me a story, everything else stops. The dishes, the laundry, the laptop, everything is put down and I am all eyes and ears. I love listening to people’s thoughts and stories. If I can have some one on one conversation absent from outside noise or parental responsibility I would make an excellent friend. However, being a momma to small children does not allow me to utilize this skill as much as I would like. It’s sort of my secret power that not a lot of people get to know about me. So, for now at least, my husband and kids get to be my secret keepers.
Problem-solving is easier for me.
The biggest time waste in solving problems lies in the overthinking of all the if-onlys and I-should-haves. I don’t delve into that. I acknowledge the current situation and look for the next single-task that needs to happen to have it remedied. When we flood ourselves of all the steps of tasks we discount the power that is in a single step. Like figuring out what to do with the baby and 5-year-old when the toddler needs to use the bathroom in a repair shop. First step: ask where the bathroom is.
We all have unique personality attributes to discover and embrace in our parenting roles. I’m a Mom who can’t multi-task, and that’s ok! I am a single-tasking mom and I am comfortable with the strengths I’ve been dealt and the weaknesses that can be turned into them. So to all the single-tasking momma’s out there you have not only my understanding, but my respect.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.