Multi-tasking is not my forte

13 Jun

Bad health and safety

This photograph, taken the other evening at 6pm, could be used as a ‘Safety In The Home’ poster, entitled ‘Circle the things that are wrong in this picture.’ The list is too long to mention.

I could start with the possible danger factors: the baby is only millimetres away from the edge of the kitchen worktop, risking a fall; he is sitting right next to the hob, and could easily fire up one of the rings with his newly acquired knowledge of household knobs. Or perhaps I could point out the sharp knife and pair of scissors at baby’s arm’s reach. The only thing that saves this picture from being a total write-off is the fact that he is wearing a bib, which is a precautionary measure to save his top from getting chocolate stains on it. Oh, but I remembered. This is tea-time, and I think I had forgotten to take it off from breakfast.

Teatime at my house is never fun. It’s probably the violent clash of all the various wants and needs of family members. I invariably want to cook something nice for later, in solitude, and have a drink while I’m at it. This is when I usually discover that I’m missing vital ingredients, and there’s a limited choice of alcohol to quaff (hence the trifle sherry that usually end up in my glass).

My son wants to talk at length about Doctor Who and then asks me to draw Daleks. I am a terrible artist. The baby wants to throw himself off high surfaces, wired from pre-dinner sugar hors d’oeuvres. My daughter wants me to listen to some highly explicit song and then ask what the lyrics mean: “Why is Azealia Banks talking so much about cake getting eaten?” I go from wanting to cook something nice for me and my husband later, to standing over my children as they eat wondering when they’ll leave the table so I can hoover up their leftovers so that an adult dinner can be forgotten altogether.

I could go into the actual aesthetics of the photograph, and use a large red marker to circle all the clangers. This would never make it onto a crafting blog entitled ‘Baking is fun with babies: here I show off all of my mid-century modern Danish furniture and my organically stocked kitchen.’ No, in the background of this photo you will see: bedraggled washing half-hung on the cold radiator, almost definitely soaking up the smells of the days’ cooking; a multi-pack of crisps and some Mr Kipling Viennese Whirls on the kitchen table, which are a far cry from anything homemade or nutritious; my laptop with a year’s worth of work (not backed up) perched precariously on a very small table, a tempting plaything for small hands, or something to spill liquids onto.

The fact that I have not taken the photograph with Hipstamatic says it all really. Bugger. The whole thing could have looked alright with a bit of a 1970s glow. And the list could go on. If I had a camera in the back of my head, then you’d be able to see my Amaretto milkshake (the only alcohol in the house, mixed with something dairy to make it my teatime-friendly drink). If I had a camera at my feet, you’d be able to see the homespun raita on the floor. (My daughter opened the fridge door to get the butter, and some yoghurt and a bunch of mint fell out, as if by magic, landed like a splatter painting.)

The reason I end up in such a mess is I try to do too many things at once. At the time that this picture was taken, I was simultaneously attempting to catch up with a radio documentary on punk on iPlayer, preparing the kids’ dinner, sorting out a new pet insurance policy and making a chocolate and apricot tart for a friends’ dinner. It was going really badly, and if my husband or any other person only slightly saner than me were to step into the kitchen at crisis point (raita spillage, collapsed tart, burnt sausages, overcooked broccoli and Siouxsie Sioux being turned off by my daughter, in favour of Rihanna) then yes, they probably would have said that I’d taken on too much.

‘Why do one thing well when you can attempt ten things and do them really badly?’ should be my mantra. I want to change but I fear it’s too late. I think my ability to focus on a single task with a sense of clarity and satisfaction is due to the fact that I have grand ideas, but lack the focus and time to be able to fulfil them properly.

I can be doing something with relative success and then another thing will catch my eye, and I run to that mid-task. The other day I looked up at a collage I’d started weeks ago, and remembered that I’d forgotten to give it the necessary third coat of varnish. Even though I was only minutes away from going out, I decided that it was a good time to get the spray varnish out. I did this because I knew that if I’d left it until a later time it would never get done. Later is always busy, so the present seems the best time, regardless of the chaos I’m surrounded by. I have only myself to blame.

If lazy gender stereotypes are at all correct, then I’m a useless woman. I just can’t multi-task effectively. I’d also be a useless man, because I can’t carry out one task well. I’ve concluded that I’m probably a hermaphrodite when it comes to the way I behave.

Just as laws have been enforced to protect people’s lives (drink-driving, mobile phone use while driving), I think I need to set myself some boundaries, if only to safeguard my mental health. I’m going to stop trying to sort laundry whilst speaking to my mother on the phone and simultaneously checking my son’s hair for nits. I’m going to switch off in bed: no longer will I be wondering where favourite items of clothing have mysteriously disappeared to as I’m having sex. I’ll try to keep my mind on the game in hand. And I’ll also try to will the hours of 6-8pm to miraculously vanish.


4 Responses to “Multi-tasking is not my forte”

  1. Leanne White June 13, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    fabulous writing, Just remember you need full concentration when looking for nitts, otherwise you will not win the bloody war!

  2. Florence June 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

    i just googled “cake getting eaten” and “cake getting eaten rap” it hasn’t helped

    • mothersruined June 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

      Think of another four letter word beginning with c. The song is 212 by Azaelia Banks. Her lyrics are filthy.

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