Do you ever complete a task and then look at the clock with a mixture of disgust and puzzlement, thinking, “It’s already that late? Why did it take me so long to do that?”
Well, if you’re like me in this, and I suspect there are plenty of you out there, I believe I can answer this question. The answer is a combination of multitasking, interruptions, and “this before that.”
I shall share an example with you. And, please understand, this is only one, small fragment of a day, a situation that is nothing special or out of the ordinary. Task to tackle: Preparing three gallons of milk for a family friend. Sounds easy enough, right? That’s what I always think going into it, and something like, That won’t take me very long. But, mostly, this usually turns out to be wishful thinking.
I start this task by grabbing three plastic jugs and setting them on my kitchen counter. All these jugs need to be washed before I can transfer the milk from my glass jars into the plastic ones. I look at my sink. Enter in a “this before that.” The sink is full of all the dirty breakfast dishes. Before I can wash the jugs, I need to put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. However, the dishwasher is full of clean dishes.
Before I can start unloading the dishwasher, my oven dings. It’s preheated and ready for the dough I have proofing on the counter. I hear my phone go off, too, signaling a text message from my mother. I put the dough into my dutch oven, put that into my oven, and set the timer. I check the message. My mother tells me she would really like another loaf of bread whenever I get the chance. I obviously inherited my patience and bad timing from her.
I go back and empty the dishwasher, but, before I can load it, my one-year-old daughter, Keira, climbs into her highchair and starts fussing. Enter in “interruption,” again. I hope that means she is ready to eat. I buckle her in, set her tray on the chair with a small snack to hold her over until I can make her an egg. Regrettably, Keira is a picky eater. She’s not old enough yet where I can tell her, “Eat it or you don’t eat anything else until you do.” So, my frustration with getting her to eat continues. I make a nice egg with cheese and, of course, she only eats a few bites, leaving most of it on the tray. I made the egg in an effort to give her something she could eat herself while I tried to wash the jugs. This did not work. She starts fussing again and wants out of the seat. While she’s still strapped in, I try some baby oatmeal instead. She takes a couple bites. I decide to outsmart her and insert some of the egg under the oatmeal on a spoonful. Maybe I can get her to eat it this way. I am wrong. She spits it all out. I give up and let her out of the chair.
After finally loading the dishwasher, I now have enough counter space to wash the jugs. I get one washed when I hear the chime for my washer. Enter in “multitasking.” I’m trying to get laundry done while baking sourdough bread and prepping milk. I change my laundry over and go back and wash another jug.
By this time, the bread is done baking, so I take it out of the oven to cool. I get another text message. This time from my sister-in-law asking for some photos. I file that in the “I will do later” folder. I wash the final jug.
During one of the times I open my fridge door to get out the milk, Keira grabs a bottle of chocolate syrup that was in the door. All you moms out there will understand when I say it’s time for “threat assessment.” Sometimes the threat assessment takes immediate action. No! Stop! An example of this was when I left the oven door open slightly to help warm the kitchen, and Keira tried to stick her hand in the opening. I saved her and closed the door. I should know better. Other times, however, a mom will say to herself, “Should I let this happen?” That’s what I was thinking when Keira took the chocolate syrup bottle out. I decided to let her play with it, since she’s not old enough to open the lid, and it would keep her busy and happy for two minutes together.
I go back to trying to transfer the milk into the milk jugs. My four-year-old, Brance, enters the room and tries to convince me that he “needs” Keira’s walker to play with. I was unconvinced. I told him “too bad it’s in the attic” and barely looked up. However, I did look up a little while later when he informed me that, “Keira’s got chocolate on her mouth!”
Although Keira was unable to open the bottle, Brance, was not. He had opened it for her. Enter in threat assessment again. Immediate action required. I ran into the living room, closed the cap on the lid, scolded Brance, and wiped Keira’s mouth. Notice I did not take the bottle away. She was still interested in it, and that is better than hanging on my legs while I try to pour milk. I get two jugs done.
Keira is now finished with the bottle and climbing into her high chair again. I’m not fooled this time. I take her out, but notice she now smells stinky. Everything else always gets put on hold when you need to change a poopy diaper. You don’t want the dreaded diaper rash!
After Keira is clean and happily bothering her brother, I get back to the kitchen to wash my hands and finish the last jug. With the last jug filled and all three jugs put in the fridge, I have now completed the task I set out to do. Success at last! That’s the moment I look at the clock and sigh.