Thursday, January 12, 2017

Multitasking Survival Skills

We all have lots to accomplish in a day, people needing us, projects we want to create, time we need to spend on too many things. This week has been so good for me to explore what I spend my time on and how that affects me and my family. There are lots of times we have to multitask. There are parts of life that are routine and habit. Those habits we tend to tune out and do in our sleep.

A new challenge arises when we are doing things out of our routine. So, be confidant in  multitasking when it is routine. When you are unloading the dishwasher, cooking dinner and playing with the dog at the same time. When you are folding laundry and playing charades with your kids (oh, just me?). We all handle things differently and can take on more or less than others and that is the beauty of being created as an individual.

If you are creating new habits that need attention and focus here are some of my mom survival skills

Survival Tips

11. Have your kids pick a puzzle, book or playdough to play with at the kitchen table while you are cooking dinner. When our kids were 2 and 3 this was scissor time and gave them something to look forward to and more desire to stay put! Our favorites are… 

22. Getting everything ready to leave the house is typically a scramble. Get your kids ready and then give them a consistent waiting spot with a task. Ours choice is they pick a book and sit on the couch “reading” until we are ready (less than 10 minutes).

33. Work together. I often feel that I don’t have time to clean the house because I don’t want to put my kids in front of a movie to clean for an hour. I have found small tasks that they can do without me (wipe down a bathroom sink, dump trashcans into a larger bag, put small items back where they go) and bigger tasks to do together (vacuum, dust, unload dishwasher). We talk about how we are going to all work together and then we are all going to stop and play together!

44. Don’t underestimate their ability to sit still for a short period of time. While I vacuum their bedroom they all sit on the bed (less than 2 minutes).

55. TV shows also have a place for this. You pick the show and make it an educational one like Wild Kratts, Octonauts or Leapfrog. This helps me stay focused also because it gives me a time limit to complete the shower, cooking, or cleaning and then I know I need to be done.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Multitasking: a necessity and a thief part 3

A Necessity

Most of the questions and comments I have read are not about multitasking being a thief but how to live well when it is a necessity. Please, do not misunderstand that I never multitask or that I think it can be done rarely. But I do think there the standard is frenetic. 

Two summers ago, the idea of getting out of bed and taking care of three kids made me anxious. I felt paralyzed to do it well and cook dinner, clean the house and play with them. My husband offered me a beautiful gift. He said, "your job today is to keep them alive". Everything else can slide. This was a season (perhaps a long one) but I feel more able these days to keep them alive while doing additional tasks. However, I think it is important in multitasking to have in mind what the priorities are. 

My three year old is potty training and I am homeschool a four and six year old. It is a battle of wills, I spend most of the "school time" teaching them how we behave and not about math and phonics. If I get distracted or walk away to pour coffee everything goes awry. So, in that two hour span I have decided that my three year old will wear a diaper. I have to focus on school, showing my older two ow to stay focused and I cannot leave to go clean up accidents and I will not remember to take him to the bathroom often enough because it isn't part of my routine. Priorities aren't always that simple but if we work on creating a few then it helps everything not feel urgent. 

There are three little people counting on me and all they believe everything they need is urgent. There is a lot of noise. Multitasking as mothers involves noise in your head, your house, the rooms upstairs, the rooms next to the one you’re in…and it’s loud noise. In my house there are parades of kids banging pots and pans, the dog barking at a squirrel and me washing the dishes. Am I supposed to think with all that? I can’t.For me it is the noise that distracts, it is the chaos that forces me to multitask but due to lack of time I do not sit down and plan the tasks, the priorities and the desires. This I think is the key...having a plan!

For months we created a habit (read this took a lot of work before it was easy and fun) for my kids of sitting at the table while I cooked dinner. They were little as a six month old, two year old and four year old. They got to choose something to do: a puzzle, a book, scissors and paper. The chaos of them running around the house had gotten to me, cooking dinner was impossible and I was frustrated that T.V. was offering my only relief. This habit took work. It takes work to teach them to sit on the couch and look at books until I am ready to walk out the door. It takes work to teach them I am not the music DJ and the driver. But not doing those things comes with a very high price.

It is a necessity to multitask as we grocery shop with kids in tow, to keep them alive and entertained while we cook dinner. It is a necessity to clean up the crumbs and spilled milk before we put them down for a nap. It is often necessary for us to talk on the phone with them around or have a friend over to talk or pray while kids play. But, we do not have to surrender authority in our day to our children or our dreams of being superwoman. We do not have to allow the thief to destroy us.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Multitasking: a necessity and a thief part 2

I recently posted an article, "Multitasking is not for Mothers". I am still thinking so much about this idea of multitasking that I am posting a series on it this week...

I would love for you to join the conversation on my Facebook page or comment below!


Multitasking: a thief

For me it has started in very simple silly ways. Perhaps, sneaky ways that I didn’t see clearly until months had gone by.

I send my kids upstairs to get ready for bed and I grab my phone so I can check my email while walking up 16 steps. Seems innocent but because I was doing that I ignored the kid sliding back down the stairs and the bathroom sink water that was left on all for 16 steps of “me-time”. I created problems by not being present.
I ask my kids to get their coats on so we can leave the house and I decide to spend three extra minutes cleaning up their school books so they aren’t left on the table when we get home. In those three minutes they have put their shoes on and gone outside into the snow. I get the books put away and clean out the coffee maker since I’m in the kitchen anyways. When I get outside I realize one kid went outside in tennis shoes with no socks and another fell and has soaking wet pants. We are late because my three minutes of tidying while they put their shoes on turned into ten minutes of cleaning and ten more minutes of redressing them. I created problems by being distracted.

I ask my kids to wait on the couch for me. I find them…anywhere: in the kitchen getting a cheese stick, in their room playing Hot Wheels, wrestling on the floor. Or, worst of all I don’t find them but I hear them as my daughter screams and cries in pain from a rough brother playing too rough. I roll my eyes, scoop her up and explain to them in too few words that they didn’t obey. I put them in the car and drive away because I don’t want to call my friend and tell her we are late again. But, what did my child learn? Nothing! I sacrifice discipline for being on time or being less late. I create future problems by not being attentive.

I scream at my kids because I am stressed out that the house is a mess and people are coming over in ten minutes. But, I enjoyed rest time when the house was quiet and read a book and convinced myself we could get everything prepared in thirty minutes for the guests. “You” could without kids, “we” cannot…ever!

We need to teach ourselves to do one thing at a time. We need to mimic this to our kids, friends and family. We do one thing at a time!

I do not think this always means our children wait until our house is clean to be played with. I think they understand the idea best when we ignore the dishes in the sink and sit at the table to play a game with them. My six-year old was sitting in the kitchen and heard my text message beep on my phone sitting on the counter. He brought it upstairs to find me and tell me. What if we started letting our kids hear our phone beep and they saw us finish the book we were reading them or the game? What if just as they see us choose to sweep the floor they see us choose to be present with them despite all the other tasks?

Being actively present means making a choice to not be perfect, to not be superwoman who does it all and leaves everyone smiling. It requires us to make choices. This is something we often don’t want to do. We leave our options open but we also leave room for stress, chaos and indecision.

I think if we as moms started showing our kids that playing with them is more important than a phone call or a sink of dirty dishes they would begin to believe us when we said “Yes, I will play with you after I vacuum.” Kids understand steps and process and order at a young age. They develop an understanding of routine and time around four months old but at some point in our desire to be flexible and capable of doing “it all” we have allowed our kids to believe we should do everything they want when they want it. We have made everything urgent. We have all lost patience and we struggle to teach it to our kids. Ignoring their request to play and hoping they get distracted is not teaching them patience. It is teaching them distraction.

It allows us distraction also.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Multitasking: a necessity and a thief part 1

I recently posted an article, "Multitasking is not for Mothers". I am still thinking so much about this idea of multitasking that I am posting a series on it this week...

I would love for you to join the conversation on my Facebook page or comment below! 


I got everyone in socks, shoes, coats, hats, gloves, and snacks packed. The dog went out. The kids are buckled in their seats and I remembered the diaper bag, car keys and my coffee! So I sit in the drive way taking a deep breath. I need the moment to think through our route and remember to buckle my seat belt. I want five seconds before I am asked something. I want quiet so I remember to look both ways before backing out of my drive way (which is on an alley with very little traffic, so don’t be scared about my forgetfulness to do so periodically).

I don’t think well in noise.

Before I put the van in reverse I hear all the opinions of song choices. They each want a different song from different albums and because I am not tech savvy they are all on different apps. That’s a lot of work. That’s dangerous to do when driving 70 mph. This is all confusing to the three-year old in the back seat who is now screaming and kicking my seat because I won’t switch from The Black Keys to the Hamilton soundtrack. After exiting and changing the song at a red light he is now throwing a new fit because I won’t turn around and find his shoe that he took off. Again, confusing to him that I have to look only at the road.

As I thought about why this made him rage I realized how many things I do at one time outside of the car. At home I cook dinner, do the dishes, play Spot It with my four year-old and listen to my six-year old read aloud ALL AT THE SAME TIME. That’s too much. But, we all do it don’t we? We nurse our babies, grocery shop, answer the phone and remind our three year-old “no touching”. We have taught our children and ourselves that multitasking is required. I dare say we applaud moms for being able to do all this. But, what if we stopped. What if we taught ourselves and our children to slow down, to be patient, to make choices and to enjoy. What if we stopped working and playing and we made individual time for both?

Prioritizing is hard for me. I don’t want more sleep, I want more mom nights out and I forget the pain of going to bed at 1 a.m. and being woken up by happy kids at 6 a.m. Most days my priority is to not be yelled at and feel loved. I forget that the goal in parenting is to teach and that means saying “no” which rarely causes kids to smile or offer neck squeezing hugs. When my house is a wreck and I need to teach math I typically pick cleaning the house because it makes me feel better. That’s a good decision if the house has looked that way for a week. But, what if instead sweeping while I teach math I do them separately? The reality we all know is they would both take less time and be more enjoyable. But, we allow stress to cloud our thoughts and we give authority to the emotions that whisper we are a failure because we can’t seem to keep our house spotless. We believe lies about who we are based on what we do. We compare and we trust that everyone else is living in a beautiful Instagram feed.

Would dinner still get cooked or the clean clothes washed if we spent a few hours not multitasking? Often I have to discipline one child while nursing the baby. In a previous article I observed that multitasking is a necessity and a thief. I believe that is still true. We can’t allow it to be one without recognizing the other.