Published November 14, 2013 on Dot Complicated
Multi-tasking. On the surface, it seems like the greatest gift to parenthood, especially to mothers. We moms have this amazing ability to do a million things at once. We can make breakfast and lunches, sign homework papers, empty the dishwasher, start a load of laundry, and remind everyone of the after-school activities for the day. We superheroes (AKA, moms) simultaneously check our phones for status updates, respond to emails, schedule appointments, make coffee, help pack the backpacks, tie the shoes and actually get out the door on time! And we normally accomplish all of this between 8:04 and 8:19 am. Once in the car we can finally take a deep breath and pat ourselves on the back because we’ve already started a successful day! Whew, we got a lot in during that 15 minutes – we are rock star parents!
But are we? During that crazed morning rush, we probably didn’t have the time to look our children in the eye, say good morning, give them an intentional hug and kiss and wish them a good day. When did society start to emphasize what we accomplish, rather than the quality of our character, as the benchmark for our success? Instead of focusing on that never-ending to-do list, we need to start cultivating and maintaining our to-be list! You know, the attributes that define who we want to be in our lives – compassionate, present, loving, caring, kind, attentive, accepting… I can see what you’re thinking. Right, we don’t have time for creating another list; that’d just be one more thing to do! But maybe if we scheduled “be present, be me” time on our to-do list, then we’d remember to slow down and reconnect to ourselves and especially to our children.
The irony, as far as I’m concerned, is that continual multitasking has turned us into unskillful parents. The more we multitask, the more we establish the pattern of giving tasks (and people!) our half-attention. True, we’ve successfully crossed off lots of action items, but we haven’t truly connected with any of it. Studies are actually showing that multitasking can compromise our brain’s ability to function at optimal levels, while at the same time triggering stress hormones that may lead to health issues. Sure, some tasks are totally mindless, and it’s okay to not give them full attention (folding laundry, anyone?). My concern (aside from diminished brain functioning, of course) is that when we make doing a million things at once a habit, we are role modeling to our children that it’s okay to not be present.