I am embarrassed to say I used to brag about how well I could multi-task. I would literally give myself mental kudos and pats on the back for my ability to simultaneously cook dinner, nurse my youngest, correct my two-year-old, help my middle-schooler with homework and take a telephone call at any given moment. This truly was a very normal scene in our home for many years. I am certain the amount of anxious energy I generated while trying to keep up with my husband, five kids, and the house was what propelled me through this chapter in my life.
However, there was an unfortunate casualty…the first several of my kids’ growing years were so busy I have little memory of our interactions. Sure, I can recall feeling I had accomplished a great deal at the end of each day (multiple diaper changes, another three family meals prepared and cleaned up, all of the laundry folded and put away, house freshly dusted and vacuumed, toilets cleaned and sanitized) but, in looking back, I spent most of my time just going through the motions rather than really being present in the tedious, yet incredibly important, daily work of being a mother. Because I was so busy trying to be everything to everybody else…giving and attentive spouse, ever-nurturing and ever-patient parent to kids who were literally in every developmental stage of life, it hindered my ability to really be a part of most of the small, yet significant moments of life.
Somehow I managed to survive that period in my life…and how unfortunate it is that I use the word survive to describe it! I wish I had been able to slow down enough to recognize I didn’t have to be the perfect wife, mother, housekeeper, cook, chauffer, as well as possessor of unending amounts of patience for every family member sooner. Because all they really needed, besides the basic necessities, was my full on presence.
I cannot go back and redo my life during those years, but I am blessed to say that wisdom does come with age. As I continue down the ever-winding path of motherhood I have learned to let some things go, to moderate the time I spend devoted to tasks such as cleaning and cooking (and even to my computer, since writing requires a lot of time behind the keys). By releasing these various activities I have less stress and more time to devote to really listening and interacting with my husband and children. The other lesson aging has taught me is not to feel guilty for taking personal time. After all, how can I continue to nurture others when my well has run dry?
Motherhood will always be synonymous with multi-tasking to some degree, but prioritizing, releasing or delegating some tasks, and recharging regularly (physically, emotionally, spiritually) increases the rewards of time, energy and patience….ultimately the presence I have to give to the most important relationships in my life.
Do you feel the same?