We moms like to think we can do it all, all the time. I mean, we know we can’t…but we like to think we can. And we try…boy, do we try! How many times have you made dinner while helping with homework while putting food in the dog’s dish while doing laundry? Sound familiar? And we can tell everyone how we can multi-task like nobody else! But is this really the best way to live our lives? Are we short-changing ourselves? Our families? Maybe there is a better way than this crazy myth that we should be able to do several things all at the same time. Maybe multi-tasking isn’t really all it’s made out to be.
Picture this: You’re standing in your kitchen making dinner, and your child is at the kitchen table doing homework. He needs some help. And dinner, of course, needs to be made. So you do both, at the same time. C’mon, we mommas can multi-task with the best of them, right?
What Really Happens?
You’re cutting veggies and filling a pan with water, and starting another pan with some oil. Your child asks a question. You leave what you’re doing and go read the homework page. Only takes a couple minutes then you’re back to working on dinner. You read the directions for the rolls and as you walk to the oven to turn it on, your child asks another question. You walk over to him instead. Read the homework again, answer the question, and go back to the counter and continue cutting veggies. Wait. You didn’t turn on the oven. What temperature? Find the bag, read the directions again, and go turn on the oven. Son asks a question again. Stop what you’re doing, go to him, answer question, back to cooking.
You see what’s happening here? And it continues! Count the cups of rice and son asks for more help. You tell him hang on, he keeps talking, you lose count, you get frustrated, and again tell him to wait. Now you finish with the rice, go see him, find the place in the homework again, re-read that, and head back to finish up dinner. Go put rolls in the oven…but for how long? Back to the bag from the rolls, and read the directions yet again. Put the rolls n the oven, set the timer. Son starts talking about his homework, and school, and the teacher, and of course you get involved in that conversation. Check on the veggies in the pan…hmmmm, did those rolls need to be brushed with butter before or after coming out of the oven. Back to the directions on the bag, read yet again. Son is still engaged in the conversation. What did he say?
So yeah, we can multi-task, and this scenario is a perfect example of what a typical evening might look like. There have been so many nights when I helped with homework while making dinner.
But Is this really the best way?
Multi-tasking allows us to get several things done at once, making a more efficient use of our time.
We see multi-tasking as a strength! Hey, look what I can do!
Multi-tasking allows us to get more done in less time.
When we multi-task, we really aren’t getting more done. We’re simply doing more than one thing at a time.
Multi-tasking means we are dividing our attention, rather than being truly attentive.
It takes longer to do any task when you are not giving it our complete, undivided attention.
The Consequences of Multi-Tasking
First of all, we simply aren’t being more productive. Everything actually takes longer.
Second, if one of the “tasks” involves another person, that person is getting short-changed. Our child or spouse or whomever is not getting our full attention. I know I can’t stand it when someone I’m talking to is only half-listening.
Third, that other person…how do they feel? I mean, really, how is this affecting your child or spouse? Maybe this one time isn’t going to scar them for life, but trust me, over time, it will add up. You are sending the message that they are not important enough to have your full attention.
And what about us? Does multi-tasking have a negative impact on us? Well, yeah, it does! If we are trying to do too many things at once, nothing is going to get done well or efficiently. And that will leave us feeling frustrated. It will steal our joy. And others around us will notice, and pay the price.
It’s all those little things that add to something big down the road. Short term. Long term. It makes a difference.
Multi-Tasking and Screens
So I’m just going to jump in here with my two cents worth about dividing our time between someone and a screen, mainly our phones. Cuz this, too, is multi-tasking.
I’m not going to go on and on about my ridiculously strong feelings about screen time right now…I have waaaayyy more than two cents worth to put in here.
So let me just tell you this…
We all have plenty of screens in our lives…our phones, IPads, laptops, Kindles, and tvs. Yeah, they are everywhere. And it’s become the norm to be doing one thing while also having a screen in front of us. It’s so easy to get distracted when working by checking email. We go on social media while on the treadmill. We play video games while eating dinner (well, if you see how bad I am at video games, you’d totally know that isn’t me!). And we are on our phones when with other people on a regular basis.
And while it may not seem like it, if we are on a screen while doing something with one of our kids, that’s multi-tasking as well. Except this time, the consequences it can have on our kids is truly not fair to them.
Let’s say we aren’t talking about just being on your phone for “fun” like social media. Let’s say we are actually doing something (semi) important, like looking for a recipe or directions. And at the same time we are playing a game with our child. There is nothing okay about this. Yes, you can do both at the same time, but neither is getting your full attention.
So the time you spend online looking for whatever is going to take longer, and the time you spend with your child isn’t giving them what they truly need…you.
Seems pretty simple, but honestly, it just means do one thing at a time.
When your child needs, or wants, you, give them all your undivided attention. It will make your time together that much better! And it will be enjoyable and stress-free. When we aren’t trying to do something else, we will be more patient and understanding. That’s plain ol’ good for our kids!
And when we need to spend time taking care of something else, and our child wants our attention too, just keep letting them know that they have to wait their turn for a few minutes and then you are all theirs.
It may seem counter-productive at first to just do one thing at a time, but once you get in the habit, you’ll start to notice how much easier things are, and how much more relaxed and joyful you become.
And your whole family will reap the benefits.