A talk-show guest confidently claimed to have the solution to my problems. "Mothers just need to borrow from the business world. They need to organize, economize and develop simultaneous activity channels. In short, they need to strengthen their multitasking skills."
Was he kidding?
At that moment, I was wiping smeared jelly from a kitchen stool with one hand and zipping the back of my daughter's dress with the other, while reviewing spelling words with a fifth-grader who possessed an infinite number of alternative spellings for hygiene.
Part of the job
Multitasking is not something mothers need to learn. We clean the house and whip up dinner and taxi the kids and trim their hair while we extract a splinter, explain a metaphor, sew a costume, teach kids to chew with mouths closed, remove lipstick from the couch cushion and use a toilet plunger.
No, Mr. Television Guest, you missed the mark completely. What we moms need, what our minds miss most and what our hearts intensely seek is the seemingly lost ability to monotask. We long for a quiet moment on a porch swing to laugh with a child, a chance to linger over dinner with our husband and the satisfaction of allowing a burgeoning idea to playfully work its way through our brain. Ah . . . to feel the linear path.
But just as soon as my thoughts "burgeon," the phone rings or the UPS man pulls up or an 8-year-old runs breathlessly into my sanctuary (read that: bathroom, bedroom, little closet in the basement where I try to hide) and demands to know if the 5-year-old is really allowed to use her toothbrush to clean the hermit crabs.
The world of motherhood is one of perpetual motion. Calendars with no blanks days. "To do" lists that do not end. Spring cleaning that runs deep into August. But multitasking isn't just a solution for improved productivity; it's a value statement that says more is always better and quiet times are unproductive times.
I suspect that God couldn't agree less. The Bible does not say, "He leadeth me in the path of astounding productivity and dizzying accomplishment whereby He is exceedingly impressed." No, God wants us to lie down in green pastures, and He wants to lead us beside still waters to restore our souls.
I know raising children is a season, and a short-lived season at that. One day my kids will be grown. The quiet will be mine to fill and enjoy. I will probably miss the noise and disorder that many little feet used to bring to my world. But when that happens, I intend to read my favorite magazine, from cover to cover, all in one sitting.