Toddler Talk Society

MOM: Masters of Multitasking

In my pre-parenting life, I was a terrible multi-tasker. I never could listen to music and work, or write emails and chat on the phone at the same time. And what’s more, I didn’t want to. I much preferred to focus exclusively on the task at hand; I prided myself on my ability to concentrate intensely.

When I look back on that old self now, I have the urge to laugh and laugh uncontrollably. The idea of focusing exclusively on one task — one task! — at a time! (Cue: hysterical laughter). The idea that not multitasking might actually be an option! (More laughter).

As I write this, my daughter is sitting at my feet playing with her play dough. I’ve been interrupted 34 times to “Open the blue!” “Open the red!” “Open the pink!” and to be informed that she made a ball, a chapatti, a coin and an egg, to duly applaud the artistic genius on display, and to answer questions on why the colours are mixed up (really?), on where the purple one is (you’re sitting on it, kid), and on what time it was, and finally, to get up because she’s “all done” and has to wash her hands this very instant. I transition seamlessly from pulling green and purple goo out of boxes and going back to typing (absently digging out whatever goo remains under my fingernails), and answer questions somehow without losing my train of thought. In other words, I’m a mom. I’m a (not so) lean, mean, multitasking machine. And by my standards these days, this is actually a very good morning. She’s playing by herself. There have been no major meltdowns or mess-ups. An hour-long tantrum over not wearing the dress I chose — now that might have slowed me down a bit.

Between the last paragraph and this one, we’ve hopscotched from wanting to watch ‘Wheels on the Bus’ on the tablet, to not wanting to watch ‘Wheels on the Bus’ on the tablet, to deciding (in a fit of uber goodness) to clean up the play dough pieces that lie around my chair like confetti, to washing our hands again… In the meantime, the phone has rung twice, the ironing guy has asked to be paid, and we have averted a minor crisis — the TV wasn’t working and the cartoons didn’t come on in time for my daughter’s lunch (panicked call to the husband at work, check).

It would have been my idea of a nightmarish morning in those good ol’ pre-parenting days, but now, it’s just business as usual. This is one of those parenting truths that aren’t revealed until you actually become a mom — you will never have all your brain cells at your disposal for a single task again. That fuzzy feeling in your brain — which you first experienced after you brought your bundle of joy home from the hospital — may recede ever so slightly, but it’s never going away.

On the really bad days — on the sick days, the long days, the days when the frazzle quotient gets too high, you snap. But most days, you just expand your bandwidth to fit the traffic. You hold conversations through the closed bathroom door while you take a shower, and always hold two conversations simultaneously while on the phone — one with whomever you’re talking to and one with your kid: “Who’re you talking to, amma?” “What’s she saying, what’s she saying, amma?” You learn to always keep one eye on the child as you cook, write or dress, and to yell out “Don’t lie on the toy crib, it’ll break!” with your mouth full of rice, midway through dinner.

If I could write a letter to my former self, I’d tell her to spend every moment she can focusing on a single task. “And that power of concentration you’re so proud of? Enjoy that too, my dear. Enjoy it while it lasts. Bwahahaha. Love me.”


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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 1:08:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/mom-masters-of-multitasking/article6435315.ece

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