That’s right, for my interview last week I had no coffee spilled down my front, no croissant crumbs in my hair, and no yogurt handprints on my shoulder blades. I think. In fact, most mornings I can say this, interview or just regular work day.
It’s testimony to my multitasking abilities that I manage that feat. Just picture my commute – kid strapped on my back in an ergo, coffee in one hand with a Kleenex pinched between two fingers and a paper bag containing one flakey croissant between two others. Don’t forget that that arm is wrapped around a pole on the bus so I don’t fall down. Add to this the umbrella dangling from my wrist. The other hand plays triple-duty: offering bits of croissant over my shoulder to Cameron after cajoling a “Please” out of him, catching a dropped toy before it can slide to the ground, or hanging on so I can sip my coffee. If the busdriver is of the hurry-up-so-we-can-stop school of driving I sometimes can’t avoid the splatter of latte.
Take another look. See that? It’s called multi-tasking. Prioritizing too – coffee must get into mouth, toy must not drop to the floor, Cameron wants a croissant but I want a “please” first. Above all, feet must stay below the rest of me. What to do?
In order to survive as a single mother I had to quickly become an expert in scheduling, minimizing crap, and prioritizing. Take a typical evening for example.
We get in the door in the evening and I start brown rice in the rice cooker to go with the stew that’s in the crockpot before I even let Cameron out of his ergo. Off come his shoes, drop them into the basket, who cares about neat, they’re where they belong, kick my shoes into my shoebasket. Down goes Cameron. As he takes off to find Nimoo-kitty I maneuver him out of his jacket, and roll his ergo up and stash them. Check messages while he dumps his train tracks to the floor, shakes blocks out of their bag, and strews stuffies everywhere. Kiss an owie because he stepped on Thomas, play a while. Deftly set the table while stepping over a toddler throwing a tantrum in the most inconvenient location, probably selected purposefully to maximize tantrum effectiveness. I swear he does complex mathematical modeling to determine these locations. A couple minutes of playtime which involves tossing stuffies into their basket, then I enlist Curious George to entertain Cameron while I wash the breakfast dishes and return a phone call. Quick iChat with Dad and Janice. Start the tub filling with Cameron’s choice of bubblestuff, get a few bites of stew into him then spend ten minutes fending off crayons and ‘invitations’ to draw while I stubbornly enjoy my stew and rice. Then I can draw, coaxing Cameron to join in while I sneakily remove articles of his clothing or persuade him to do it. One nekkid kid, meet one bath! Play time while I spoon yogurt or dessert tofu into him, then some fruit. Finally, a few minutes to check email. Back to play, call Mom. Dash to get stuffies in his bed arranged so there’s room for him, grab his ‘snuggie’ (sleeping bag), toss Bunny to right place and Blanket just so – all while talking on the phone. Back to bathroom, read a story, back to livingroom to tidy up 75% of the toys into their appropriate corners and bins. There’s method to that madness. Back to the tub, brush my teeth while playing with him, then sing the tidy up song to get all the toys in there where they go and cue Cameron to be okay with getting out of the tub. Cameron out, wrapped in towel so his arms and legs are pinned and I can brush his teeth. Swaddling helps infants sleep? Heck no, it teaches the parents how to restrain the child before they become a toddler and learn that “chase me while I wave the toothbrush I grabbed from you” is an effective bedtime delay tactic. Once he’s got his PJs on, remember those strategically left toys? Tidy up song one more time so he learns to tidy up his toys AND as a transition … story time, boobie time, bed time!
All that in roughly two and a half hours. If I’ve done it right I just have to wash dinner dishes, get the leftovers in the fridge, sweep the floor, do ONE chore, and it’s mommy-time. I can have a bubble bath, watch TV, write here, call friends … whatever. See that part about just one chore? That’s because I know that my sanity is a priority.
See all the stuff I accomplished? This could have taken four hours, easily. Now, just imagine what that kind of nested activity, productivity and prioritizing could do for a lab, research group, or company.
Now if only I could put this on my resume somehow in a socially acceptable manner. Because I wouldn’t want anyone to know I’m a single mother. Oh, no. They might judge me!