Has your to do list has taken over your life? Charlotte brings you ten warning signs that motherhood is turning you into a workaholic.
It’s all very well to populate the internet with saccharine black and white photos of a ‘mother’ kissing some tiny toes, emblazoned with a pink, swirly caption instructing us all relax and slow down and cherish every minute, but real mums know that the consequences of not staying on top of things are lethal.
There’s just so much to get done. Of course the kids don’t want me to do it. But they will when they get hungry and discover there’s nothing to eat, no money to buy it and anyway the kitchen’s been towed away by Environmental Health.
This is the justification – deep from my own tense, fraught, choking subconscious – for why motherhood has turned me into one big, stressy, multitasking workaholic. Are you one too?
Here are the warning signs:
- You think about other things while you’re “listening” to people. That window needs cleaning – again. What was that thing to add to my list? What was it…? “Yes darling, of course I’m listening, I’ve just had quite a taxing day.” Tax! That was it! Do tax return. I wonder how long this conversation’s going on for. Maybe if I stand up and edge towards the kitchen we could talk and tidy… Sound familiar? (I never do this. I just heard that some other women do.)
- You’re obsessed with getting up before the rest of the family. If the kids wake up early, you’re not annoyed by the lack of sleep so much as the fact that you’ve lost your chance to take control of the day and enjoy that one moment of calm and order before they all ruin it.
- You know you should be letting the kids help but they’ll just mess it up! And take too long about it. One day you’ll teach them to pull their weight. One day you’ll patiently lead a really fun and interactive vacuum cleaning master-class, but today… Today you truly feel these children need to focus on their hand-eye(Pad) coordination.
- Not a moment is wasted – even on the loo. Do you remember the days when you just went to the toilet because you needed to and there was nothing else to it? These days I’m normally too busy to go at all, but if I do allow myself a “luxury wee” (as my husband and I genuinely call them these days – a sad acknowledgement of how low our pleasure threshold has sunk), there’s no excuse for not making proper use of the time by replying to a few texts or checking my emails.
- When it comes to menial tasks, every limb should be working for you. There’s no way I’m just going to stand there gawping into the bathroom mirror to brush my teeth. OK my right hand is busy and this is no time to make a phone call, but I’ve got three working limbs unaccounted for. How are those freeloaders going to pay their way? I usually sort and put away laundry with my left hand and maybe get some outfits ready for the kids to wear. Sometimes a bit of toothpaste dribbles onto clean clothes. This is a hazard of intensive multitasking.
- You must get ahead on everything. Do you wash up dinner as you cook it? Do you struggle to relax if you haven’t lined up tomorrow morning’s shoes, packed lunches and bags by the front door? How many jobs can you get done in the time it takes to brew a strong pot of coffee? And is anyone else going to admit to feeling ever so slightly critical of their partner for being blissfully unaware that this is how you’re meant to do it? (Note to self: he’s the sane one.)
- No journey up or down the stairs is wasted ever. When your children are big enough to roam freely, their key mission is to take stuff away from where it lives. Which means your key mission is to put it back. Repeatedly. At the top of our staircase is a windowsill. On it I line up an assortment of dirty crockery, stuff for recycling and dustbin-bound nappy bags containing a really eclectic range of foul matter – ready to go downstairs. At the bottom of the stairs is a metre cupboard on which we line up the soft toys, tiny dressing gowns and 1001 other nameless bits that should go up to my daughters’ bedroom because I can’t bear to look at them anymore. I never go up or downstairs without surveying these dual loading bays and my own two hands to assess how many items I can carry at once. Theoretically I can take ten large mugs and ten tall thin sippy cups in one go (the cups fit inside the mugs). But yes it would end badly.
- You always want your other half to drive on family days out because there’s so much you can get done in the passenger seat. Write shopping list; manage all 37 inboxes; delete two dozen duplicate toddler selfies from phone (Aaahh! Maybe I’ll just save one…); pluck eyebrows (ONLY at traffic lights); perform full manicure; apply makeup… My list never goes beyond the makeup one. I love having time to put makeup on. This is pretty much the only chance I get to do it so once I start there’s no stopping me. If it’s a long journey, I arrive looking like Barbie’s mum on her seventh wedding day.
- You put yourself last. This is the really sad one. You’ve come to see ‘me time’ as a frivolous extravagance. You have no real hobbies. You’d love to do exercise but you can’t justify the time it would take. Worst of all, you work yourself to exhaustion creating delicious, wholesome recipes to tempt your little ones but, when you’re at home alone, you give yourself precisely six minutes to prepare, eat and clear up lunch. Who’s that leaning over the kitchen worktop eating last night’s congealed leftovers straight from the Tupperware pot with a child’s plastic fork? Oh. Turns out it was me…
- Half the time you feel like your partner is your colleague. At the end of yet another cripplingly efficient day, going to bed together should be a chance to touch, to re-connect, to shut out the world and share a moment of intimacy with the person you adore. So you roll over and you lean in close. Tenderly you whisper into your beloved’s ear: “Are you OK to do the drop-off tomorrow?”
So what about you? What’s your worst multitasking obsession? And please, please, tell me how I can stop!