You’ve always rather resented the whole ‘women are better at multitasking’ thing because you are not. Your ability to tune out the world while you focus on one thing at a time is infinite. Your ability to type this journal in English, feed the baby, watch the news, do the washing up, get breakfast for the toddler, prepare for an OFSTED inspection at work and load the washing machine while simultaneously chatting in Russian to your MiL, taking the toddler upstairs for a poo, perusing the instructions to eliminate a particular type of punctuation from some Internet code, rescuing a climbing baby from the hi-fi separates, (or, possibly, rescuing the hi-fi separates from a climbing baby), reminding the toddler 26 times to put his pants back on, composing comprehension questions in your head and reading a book called ‘Sumita’s Pink Bicycle for the 3 millionth time is…
[Brief pause while you wash yoghurt off the back of the baby’s head.]
[Another brief pause while you disinfect the high chair, sweep the floor, and take the rubbish out.]
[“If you eat that all yourself, I’ll read you a book.”]
[“Yes, sweets, that really is an excellent seagull impression.”]
[Another brief pause while you muse on the fact that, having been forced to move to Salford, BBC Breakfast is gamely trying to make Manchester the centre of the universe. Although, to be fair, the fact it isn’t raining there is news.]
[Less brief pause while you try to convince the baby that the computer is not a 22987v9c8g??????)(*&^%$£” toy.]
[Brief pause while you finish cleaning yoghurt off the floor.]
[My word, what a surprising number of towns conveniently situated for soundbites from the average punter in the Midlands there are.]
[Hang on, there’s still yoghurt on the baby.]
[…reading a book…]
[“Noooooo! Not the iPhone!”]
[“Put you pants back on!”]
[What are we going to have for dinner tonight? *Much discussion in Russian*]
OK, I’ll finish this later.
Two days later
Rather more days later
Anyway, it’s not just the inability to finish anything you start that annoys you, although you did realise the other day that the reason you like taking the kids out on trips is at least in part because it is one of the few activities which has a beginning a middle and an end all on the same day.
It’s the inability to schedule that quietly drives you insane. You may prefer to finish one thing before moving on to the next, but modern life is rubbish and that wasn’t always possible even before kids. But at least you knew how long, roughly, stuff would take, and you could create satisfying little to do lists and timetables in your head and, generally, win them.
Children, however, are frustrating to diarise. Something that lasted 15 minutes yesterday may take 2 hours today. Or 2 minutes. And their interruptions are unpredictable and, usually, unignorable. It is quite hard to resist a small girl who wants you to play ‘let’s put the (soft) building blocks on my head’, or the pre-schooler who can make the question why last all morning and go twice round your understanding of physics.
What to do? Concentrate on the childcare, the childcare and nothing but the childcare, interspersed by a little light housework? Trouble with that is that although sometimes you find you do not have whole evenings to yourself, sometimes you find that you do. Plus, your brain would dribble out of your ears.
And so life post children, especially post two children is, you have found, the art of throwing up lots of balls and dashing around trying to catch them all before they hit the ground.
When you start to drop too many of them, or stay up till 11pm on a regular basis* to catch them, that’s when you know it’s time to scale back.
*Ooooooh, the wild, riotous living.