Multi-tasking—that’s a modern day catch phrase if I’ve ever heard one. It simply means doing more than one thing at a time. If I am babysitting, reading a book, cooking lunch, doing laundry, talking on the phone, and writing a column all at the same time, then I’m multi-tasking or crazy or both.
In my younger years when my children were small, I was a master at multi-tasking. I would put on a load of laundry to wash before I started cooking supper. Then I would stand at the counter stirring an egg into the cornbread batter while Josh sat at the table telling me about his day. I had Jakey at another table doing his homework and Calvin in his room doing his. When my eyes wandered over to check the progress of the tomatoes and okra cooking on the stove, Josh would say, “Mama, listen to me with your eyes! You aren’t really listening to me.”
I really was listening—after a fashion, that is, but I knew all the things I had to do before I could go to bed that night. That stack of essays had to be graded and ready to return to students the next morning, so I’d be burning the midnight oil. First, I had to feed my family. There are times when we absolutely must do more than one thing at a time. However, I wonder if we do too much of it and risk the quality of our endeavors. Some tasks require our undivided attention.
I tried to think of some tasks that I give my undivided attention and came up with very few. Actually, I’m sitting here right now working on this column with my smart phone at my fingertips to check the weather ……or maybe Facebook, if the phone whistles at me. I might even play a game of Words with Friends if the occasion arises. Every few minutes, I toss the tennis ball for Charlie. But when I can food for us, I give it my undivided attention. I don’t stop to answer the phone or play with the dog. The Nook is charging on the night table so I can read my current novel later. The jars of tomatoes or jelly or chutney have my attention. This situation calls for a tad of common sense. I don’t want to kill my family with bad canning, nor do I wish to waste all that good food and great effort. I pay attention.
I read an article last week that said we’re going to Hell in a hand basket because of our incessant multitasking. I’m not so sure. I think mothers in particular have always been masters of the art. It’s just that modern day mothers have all these marvelous mechanical and electronic helpers.
I’ve given up some of the tasks that once required all my attention. I can’t remember the last time I sewed a complete garment for myself and I once made most of my clothes. I certainly paid attention to that effort. One wrong cut would ruin the whole project. Today I carefully weigh my options. Why would I want to sew for hours when I can just wait for a sale at Belk’s? I could be reading a good book instead.
I had a student once who asked me again and again why we couldn’t completely finish one project before we started another. Again and again I explained to her that English class required too many subjects for us to do that. We had vocabulary, literature, spelling, writing, etc., and never enough time.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all the peas came in at one time so we could pick, shell, and process them before the green beans were ready? After that, the tomatoes would put in their appearance. It just doesn’t work that way, but the Good Lord did give most of us just a dollop of common sense.
If you are my doctor, I don’t want you multitasking. Pay attention every time you see me. If you’re an operator at the local nuclear plant, no multi-tasking. Do not text and drive. All you firemen out there, when you’re fighting a fire, . . . . . Oh, well, you get the idea.