It is a given that when you are a mother of many, you are able to multitask. Otherwise, nothing would ever get done since there is far more to do than can ever be finished anyway.
I used to have energy and could manage 10 loads of laundry per day. (Actually I think that’s not true unless you think of “manage” more as moving around rather than finishing the whole process.)
I could put a meal on the table all while helping with homework, changing a diaper, picking up children from everywhere and keeping the house halfway neat. The pictures from the past prove it only was ever halfway neat.
I imagined retirement would be filled with long walks among shady trees, reading like I used to do on the weekends as a teenager, baking bread for sick neighbors and watching “Jeopardy” every night, all while keeping my house as neat as my grandmother’s. That hasn’t come to pass.
I do still love to read and when I’m often in the middle of a good book, I am annoyed to have to do anything else.
But, mostly, I still multitask. While I’ve been writing these first five paragraphs, I have texted a friend about a sick friend, answered the phone and tried to help solve a problem, dried some laundry and eaten a banana.
Yesterday seemed to be a day devoted to multitasking. My mother’s phones were not working so that thread of frustration ran throughout the whole day. All I wanted to do was eat when I got home from church but decided to open a chat conversation with the telephone company about Mother’s phone issues. I balanced my stew and my laptop on my lap, dropping my mouse behind the chair. Somehow my socks got wet in the whole procedure.
Then my son and his family called to say they were headed to Danville from Durham, North Carolina, to show their new little baby girl, Mary Maple Rose, to my mother. Of course, they hadn’t been able to get in touch with her or with me because I was on the phone helping solve a problem at church.
I slurped stew quickly and headed to my mother’s with laptop in hand in case I needed to chat with phone techs again. I had been instructed to disconnect and connect all the phone jacks and the problem would be solved. I did that at Mother’s while trying to visit and finish crocheting a baby hat for Mary Maple that still needed a flower.
Four-year-old McCoy needed puzzles and kept taking my crochet hook, thinking it was the coolest thing ever. I’d forgotten how to crochet a flower so I had to Google that.
The disconnecting didn’t work and all the flower videos were way too long. Just show me how to do it and don’t talk, OK? My daughter and her family popped up with a video call, then I called the phone company again and just left the call on hold on speaker phone.
The technician finally wanted me to unplug the phone jack and go plug it into the phone box. I had to ask him to repeat what he had said in a heavily accented voice.
“Do you know where that is?” he asked. “If not, I can send a technician.”
“Let’s assume I don’t and send that tech,” I replied.
Off the phone with him, I remembered the light in Mother’s bathroom wasn’t working and enlisted the aid of my husband, David, to figure that out.
Next, I found an advertisement for McCoy to cut up with my little crochet scissors he also thought were cool, then kissed the resultant cut on his finger. Along the way, I stole the baby from Mother and cuddled her a bit.
As I figured out the crochet flower pattern, McCoy came up with the strangest request of all. As I pointed out, I have spent many years of mothering multitasking, splintering my brain into pieces until my attention span is shot, but I have never been asked to do this before.
I never have been asked to draw a stink bug on a white memo board. That is what McCoy needed in his life to make him happy, and from the looks of other stink bugs that had been drawn, I was the woman for the job.
I put down the phone and the crochet hook and the laptop and the baby and drew quite an amazing stink bug, if I say so myself. McCoy loved it.
On multitasking days like that, there are a couple of things you can do to re-center yourself. I know someone must be thinking yoga or splitting wood, but I chose sweat pants and ice cream after we got home.
Both of those I can do together just fine.
Elzey is a freelance writer for the Register & Bee. She can be reached at email@example.com or (434) 791-7991.