Friday, October 5, 2012

"Why My House Is So Dirty" or "Multitasking is the Devil"

For years, or maybe my whole life, I've heard multitasking is a good thing.  We women excel at it; it's in our DNA.  It is right and good that we drink our coffee, make breakfast for a toddler and look for a preschooler's shoes all while on the phone with the cable company (who will be out to fix the cable sometime between noon and next Tuesday.)  Why not pay bills online while making dinner and mentally formulating my next blog?  It's just an efficient use of time.
Well, lately I've noticed an irritable streak in me.  I am snappy with the kids at times I can't even blame it on PMS.  What's wrong with me?  I tell myself. "You're not perfect.  No one expects you to be sweetness and light all the time.  It's inhuman."  Be that as it may, I realized railing at Jack for leaving his shoes in the middle of the floor when I'd ask him to pick them up three time already wasn't really venting for me.  If anything, it made me feel worse.  So, I started an informal study of myself to see when I was most irritable, trying to figure what the triggers were.  Here's what I found:  I am pissy in the morning.  I do not like being talked to early in the AM, especially if it's not even light yet and I haven't had any coffee.  I certainly am not up for a detailed account of the making of hand print ghosts in preschool the day before. (How does he wake up thinking about these things??) This is not really fixable.  All I can do is get coffee as soon as possible, sit on the playroom floor and expect very little of myself until the caffeine kicks in.
Secondly, I noticed I am most irritable when I am multitasking.  I am more likely to get snappy when both kids are around.  And, at 5:00, when everyone is tired and whiny and I'm trying to make dinner, it's the perfect multitasking storm for me to blow up over some tiny infraction, like Jack putting all the forks under the napkins instead of on them while he sets the table (He thinks this is really funny.)  Okay, so how do I fix it?  Well, I decided, I just need to do less stuff at one time.  These are the changes I've made:

  1. I finally caved and decided the kids could watch cartoons while I make dinner, instead of trying to integrate their help into the dinner-making process as all the parenting mags suggest.  Everyone is happier this way.
  2. I do not clean.  Instead of running around tidying up the kitchen after a meal, I pile all the dirty dishes in the sink and leave them for later... or for Jason, which is even better.
  3. When something is irritating me (usually some innocuous thing Jack is doing like, taking his sweet-ass time picking out clothes in the morning or Gage banging pots on the tile floor), I focus on something else.  I leave the room if possible and go brush my teeth or text my sister, whatever.
  4. I remind myself over and over again I'm not responsible to fix every real or imagined problem my children have.  It is okay for them to be upset and cry sometimes.  It is not only okay but good for them to work things out themselves.
  5. If I have a hectic day planned, i.e., first to the grocery store, then to a play date, then to the grandparents' house, then play date part two, I ask myself if I can truly handle all that on this day.  I say to myself, "Because if you are going to get all frazzled and pissy, you need to cancel some of that shit.  It's not worth it."
  6. I try to remember to be present in the moment.  This one is hard for me, because I am a pathological planner.  But, when we are at the park, I remind myself to make eye contact with my kiddos, really see them, really enjoy them, instead of letting my mind go off planning some future event.  Even if we are just in the car or at the grocery store, I try to find things to enjoy about it - sing silly songs with the kids or whatever.  That's not to say we don't still have those times I am driving white-knuckled and teeth-gritting whilst screaming and whining ensues in the back seat.  See numbers 3 and 4 for this scenario.
I've been telling myself for a long time it's okay not to be the perfect mom.  It's okay if I lose my cool occasionally.  I just want to save it for the big infractions and not socks on the floor.  Most of all, I want to increase my own happiness and contentment, and when I am patient and relaxed with my kids, I am happiest and they are too.  On top of all this, I tell myself not to analyze every statement I make to my kids, worrying what impact it will have on their impressionable psyches.  I am a great freaking mom, and despite that, my kids will, without a doubt, someday think, "wow, that was fucked up," about something I do or say to them.  Why fight it?