I recently read an article about how as a society we should embrace boredom. Put down our phones, the author demanded. Cast aside the remotes and laptop computers. We should stop multitasking and have uninterrupted time with our thoughts before we forget how. The argument of this and many other stories was that the quick, distracted nature of the internet has created a hyperactive, unfocused society, doomed to shallowness and anxiety because of all that multi-tasking. Be bored, the author recommended instead.
It’s an interesting concept. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this helpful guidance on how to be bored probably wasn’t written for parents. And it definitely wasn’t written for mothers.
Seriously, where do I sign up to sit quietly with my thoughts on a regular basis? Because I’ll book a one-way ticket there. Any parent knows that boredom is a luxury and one that you rarely — if ever — are permitted to indulge in. Between the cooking and the cleaning and the whole making sure your kids are fed and clothed, there just isn’t any time to indulge in boredom. Once you have a few golden moments of silence, you just want to sit and stare into the abyss, relishing the peacefulness, because you know how quickly it’s going to disappear.
This is my life, though, and the life of mothers in general: constantly struggling to find one single moment during an over-scheduled, noisy day to think a single solitary thought. We can’t but multi-task, as mothers for millennia have done. You just can’t take life one task at a time when there’s an entire family to think about. Which brings me back to those articles telling people how bad constant stimulation is.
If the effects of the 21st century ways of life are detrimental to our well-being as individuals, then what in the hell has been happening to mothers for all these years? These countless books and articles telling us how we are sabotaging ourselves by trading in serious, sustained attention for the superficial kind of contact we have while multitasking are ridiculously insulting to women. I’m curious as to the biological effects that are occurring at this very moment while I’m typing these words, listening to one child watch Daniel Tiger, fielding questions from the other child about why dinosaurs went extinct and thinking about what I’m going to cook for dinner, all while suppressing the urge to pee because as soon as I stand up someone will ask me to make them a snack. If it’s true that I’m ruining my mind by attending to my little ones, surely women would have been fully ruined by now? If it’s true that being distracted all the time by tiny little tasks that don’t take up all your attention is actually ruining you, what are the effects of mothering?
I’ll tell you what they are. Multi-tasking makes you tired. It makes you hungry. It makes your cranky sometimes. It does not destroy your mind. To suggest that it does is to insult the very existence of mothers. No book whose ethical system may as well be called “Don’t be a Mother” can be taken seriously.
Obviously, the ultimate form of multitasking is growing another human while working, raising other humans, or just existing. Don’t tell me that that’s a bad thing. Instead, bring me a glass of wine. The nightly wine-d down routine is essential. My nightly routine involves the serenity that washes over me as I pour a glass of thoughtfully selected Riesling that has been chilled to perfection. As soon as the cool and crisp flavor hits my palate, I’m instantly transported to a place where I’m all alone with my thoughts, reflecting on how much sleep I had before children. You know, until a child wakes up needing me to slay a monster that’s been lurking under the bed.