It’s Time To Stop Multi-Tasking

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Photo Courtesy: Jessica Rockowitz Photography + Film

If your home is anything like mine, you’ve got a to-do list a mile and a half long. At this very moment, the laundry needs to be moved to the dryer, the kitchen trash needs to be emptied out…probably the diaper pail does too. The kids’ bathroom sink is crusted with half-brushed toothpaste and only one out of four beds is made. There’s a sticky spot on the kitchen floor right underneath the toddler’s booster seat. The dog needs to take her monthly flea medicine. The fishbowl could use some fresh water. There’s a paper pile that hasn’t been sorted in weeks and don’t get me started on the playroom. Toys strewn about like a tornado just passed through. 

The list doesn’t stop inside the walls of my home.

I need to exchange pair of 5T leggings at Old Navy that weren’t “pink enough”. The dry cleaning needs to be dropped off. Both kids have soccer practice tonight, so dinner needs to be ready an hour early so we can leave the house in time to make it to practice during rush hour. I need to vacuum out the car and drop off a box of donations. Oh and I just got an email that I need to swing by the public library to pick up a hold I’ve been waiting to read forever (eek!), and probably return some other books before they’re overdue. We need to find the Thanksgiving decoration box and pick up a birthday gift and mail a thank you card. 

It’s never-ending as a mama. And I’m not complaining. Not even a little. This is literally the life I’d always dreamed of. But the reality is, there’s a whole side of mothering that I never knew existed, mainly because my own mom totally crushed it while I was growing up. It’s the multi-tasking. The never-ending list of things to do that runs through your head all the time that nobody else sees. 

We were programmed to multitask as students, and perfected as employees. In those roles, multi-tasking seemed the greatest tool at our own fingertips, allowing us to push past limits, exceed expectations and appear super-human. But as mothers? I’m afraid as mothers, the script is completely flipped upside down.

As moms, we’re subjected to multi-tasking because of the nature of our role.

But have you ever looked up for a moment, caught your breath and realized that our tendency to multi-task is actually ruining everything?

Because here’s what happens when I’m multi-tasking as a mom.

I’m ignoring my kids.

Because kids aren’t a task. The’re not a “to-do”. You certainly don’t ever cross them off a list and proudly say “done”!  

Motherhood is full of tasks, but oh, even without including any of those tasks, it’s a full time job. 

Your number one job is to love. your. babies. 

To hug them and look into their eyes and teach them right from wrong. To teach character through honesty and integrity. To hold them close and explain hard things. To remind them of their infinite and intrinsic value. To wipe tears and to share joy. To encourage their gifts and to gently correct their flaws. To prepare them to walk out of your door one day ready and able. To introduce them to a faith that they can cling to when life gets hard. To teach them how to pray and how to forgive. 

I could go on. And on. 

These things aren’t tasks. They’re over-and-over again conversations that you will miss if you’re multi-tasking.

I’ve been the multi-tasking mama. The one too busy matching socks and chopping onions for dinner to notice when somebody needed to have one of these important conversations. 

So often the urgent takes precedence over the important. 

The reality is that multitasking as a mama means you’re either missing moments completely or you’re only offering divided attention. 

Multi-tasking steals the quality of our efforts. We’re no longer great at anything because we’re mediocre doing everything. 

Have you heard of single-tasking?  It’s when you intentionally focus on one thing at a time. A total commitment to accomplishing a task in the most efficient way allowing more moments of pause, respite and margin. 

There’s all kinds of information about single-tasking in your career. But what about motherhood? If the most important part of motherhood isn’t a task, how does it apply?

Here’s my thought. 

We simplify our tasks. We streamline. We look at the part of our role that is tasks- the laundry, the housework, the extracurricular activities, etc. – and we simplify them. We get rid of the junk in our homes. We simplify schedules. And we tackle them just one at a time as best we can. So that we can single-task with our “tasks” and allow the most possible room for our greatest calling. 

Practically in my life, this looks like saying “no” a lot more than I do. 

“No we don’t need to buy that.” 

“No we can’t be there.” 

“No we aren’t adding anymore activities.” 

“No.” 

As you simplify your life, it will begin to look less like a juggling act. 

The less stuff you have to manage in your home…one less ball to juggle. 

The less places you have to be…another ball you’re setting down. 

The fewer schedules you have to manage….put one more ball down.

Mamas, we can do this. And we can do it well. This impossible, never-ending, thankless, joy-infusing, hardest job in the world. And we’ll look back and be completely unable to recall how long it took for us to fold the laundry and put it away. The contents of our kids’ lunchboxes will be a bit hazy. We won’t remember exactly who played which sport during which season and who quit swim team to take gymnastics instead. 

But we’ll remember the sacred. We’ll remember the conversations about broken hearts and the innocent questions like “Where do babies come from?” and “Is God nice?” We’ll remember the time they learned something new, or that look on their face when they accomplished that hard thing, and they look up at us to make sure we were watching. We’ll remember the real stuff. Because that’s the stuff that matters.

And that’s the stuff that deserves our undivided, single-minded, and captive attention. 

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