Multi-tasking – is it really that great a skill?

Apparently as a woman I’m very good at multi-tasking. Why is then that I’m not that proud of my ability?

Multi-tasking, an ability or a necessity?

I just ask because I’ve noticed that if I’m sitting at the kitchen table trying to write a blog post surrounded by 4 children all demanding food, drink or answers to really important questions like ‘why do you have to whack fish when you catch them?’ simultaneouly that I am expected to just juggle it all. At the very worst I’m supposed to drop the blog post and deal with the rest. Only once everything else is satisfied do I feel allowed to return to the blog. And of course everything else is never satisfied.

So much research tells us that multi-tasking isn’t actually a good thing. It is far more productive to focus on one task at a time. Multi tasking slows down our overall output. Yet women seem to have no choice but to get on with it. We’re told women can multi-task, men can’t but I think the truth might be that women don’t have the luxury of not multi-tasking.

Why are there different rules for him and her?

However, when he is writing a blog post, or typing a comment in to Facebook and someone else dares to talk to him, usually me, they get at best a grit of the teeth and at worst told to leave him alone he’s trying to work.

If we are both in the kitchen and a child wants something they will immediately ask ‘mum’. A friend of mine told me recently about when she was out at work all day and her husband had the children. She returned home to find him playing computer games while the two young children sat playing quietly…until they saw her. Then it was ‘mummy, I need a drink’, ‘mummy, what’s for tea?’. How do men get away with it?

Do women expect to multi-task while men have a right to focus?

Are we women at fault for just coping with it all so well? Should we shout ‘leave me alone’ more often? Or does that go against our instincts especially when it’s children that are demanding our attention?

Even as I write this I can hear huffing an puffing from him further along the kitchen table as he juggles holding a sleeping (not demanding!) baby while trying to edit an email. The only reason I’ve surrendered the body is that my back is too sore to hold the bundle any longer. Normally that would be me typing away one-handed with a softly snoring darling snuggled into my shoulder. You should see how good I’ve got at typing with me left-hand only.

Perhaps women are their own worst enemy. Or perhaps our children in particular are just too precious to us to demand the extravagance of single-tasking as it would inevitably mean turning their demands and needs away.

What does this mean for women, especially mothers, who work from home?

I don’t have the answers to this question? I want the answers! My own experience is that I constantly feel like I’m juggling everything and everyone. The task is never finished. Consequently I’m often tired, irritable and downright miserable. Of course I love my children etc etc and sure I wouldn’t have it any other way. No wait – actually I might. If I could just tweak things a little to allow time to breathe for myself now and then, perhaps I wouldn’t feel quite so washed out.

How do women, mothers in particular, cope with working from home? According to a previous blog post I wrote apparently I do, and of course yes I still agree with everything I wrote but sometimes it just feels too hard. If you are one who manages it, please let me know how you do it as I don’t think I do and I could do with some advice.

Of course since starting this post the adorable sleeping bundle woke up, demanded mummy and has returned to me. Oh well, back to the one handed, cack handed typing it is…

 

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