As moms, we're always doing a million things at once. I breastfeed my son while catching up on my favorite Netflix shows, answer texts while planning out meals, bathe my daughter while returning phone calls, and make dinner as I'm helping my older children with their homework. I see my fellow moms walking their kiddos to school while they're on the phone with their boss. I sit in bed at night scheduling play dates with other moms, while I talk to my husband about my day. The juggling act never ends.
I know I don't speak for all parents, but constant multitasking leaves me anxious and exhausted. I also worry I'm missing important moments with my kids. How can I really engage in a conversation about the upcoming fun run at school if I'm only half-listening as I respond to an email? Am I really enjoying my goodbye hug before school if I'm also mentally going over that day's to-do list? And ultimately, why am I trying to accomplish so many things at the same time if it's making me crazy?
With the goal of de-stressing and being more mindful, I decided to do one thing at a time for an entire day. This is no small task with four kids, but I was determined to give singletasking a try. If I was breastfeeding, I'd only do that. I'd only help with homework, and so on. Here's what happened, and what I learned, when I did my best to put multitasking in timeout for 24 hours.
This is how I start my day, but typically I'll flip on the TV or surf the internet on my phone at the same time. Today, I let my son latch on and I spent his feeding session stroking his head, smiling down at him, and just breathing in his deliciousness. It was truly lovely and relaxing . . . the first time. Three feedings later, I found myself picking at his cradle cap and feeling antsy and kinda bored, wishing I could answer the text I just saw pop up on my phone.
2. AM Routine
Rather than racing from room to room making sure my girls are getting dressed while also checking emails or chatting to my hubby on the phone about how the window replacement estimate came in higher than we thought, I attempted to stay in the moment with each of my daughters and block out everything else. Easier said than done when someone else was hollering for me from down the hall, and my baby was spitting up in my hair. But the intention was there.
I usually shower and feel like I blacked out the whole time. My thoughts are so scattered, and I'll get out and not remember whether I applied conditioner or shaved until I feel my legs. Today, I vowed to focus my attention on the hot water and enjoying a little "me" time instead of letting my mind wander to the millions of other things I need to accomplish. I was somewhat successful until I heard my baby crying from his bassinet outside of the bathroom and started singing "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" at the top of my lungs.
4. Walks With My Son
While I'm pushing the stroller, I'll return a phone call or draft a blog post. Today, I stowed my phone away and tried to notice what was going on around me; how blue the sky was, how the breeze felt. I engaged in baby talk with my little guy and observed his reactions to a lawn mower starting or a bird's call. I felt really happy and light for most of our walk, but I'll admit it was hard to maintain that mindfulness the entire time.
5. Making Dinner
This was by far the most difficult part of the day to commit to singletasking. My baby was crying out for the boob, my kids were telling me about their days at school, peppering me with questions about whether they should pack chips or pretzels in their lunches for the next day, and my hubby was calling me from his commute. I found it impossible to not get frazzled, and feel like a chicken with my head cut off running around the kitchen.
6. Helping With Homework
I tried to redeem myself for the multitasking mayhem that happened around dinner by sitting down with each of my kids and focusing on homework, distraction-free. To that end, TVs and other devices were off. The baby even cooperated by taking a catnap. Order was restored and my cortisol levels must have gone down by half.
7. Putting the Kids to Bed
This also tends to be a stressful part of the day, because everyone wants my help at the same time. Tonight, I attempted to get one kiddo's needs met at a time, but again, this was a challenge. One daughter's toothpaste exploded at the exact same time the baby's pacifier dropped behind the toilet. Then my other girls remembered something we had to do online before school tomorrow. Bedtime ended up being another frenzied, full-on multitasking marathon. Sigh.
My takeaway from the day is that I owe it to myself and my family to slow down and try doing just one thing at a time whenever possible. But to expect to maintain that all the time is not realistic. Sometimes you simply have to, or want to multitask. I think as long as the intention to not make multitasking a way of life is there, I can cut out some stress and enjoy more moments in the day. I learned it's equally important not to beat myself up when things spin out of control. The best way to move past those chaotic moments when I feel like I'm doing 25 tasks at the same time is to take a deep breath and refocus on the goal to parent one moment at a time.