Today, I will hunt down white sweatpants for Bridgette, my four-year-old, so she can be a sheep in the school Christmas play. I’ll pick up hot pink letters for Juliette’s science board (because the silver ones are too small) and buy Sullivan a new pair of sneakers. He’s been complaining that the current pair make him feel the bumps in his socks.
I’ll visit the courthouse to pay our county taxes; plan a dinner complete with homemade mashed potatoes and worry about the light on the dashboard that says the tire is low — even though it isn’t. Oh, and I’ll field calls from roofers.
Just as I am heading out the door to perform all these tasks DURING MY LUNCH HOUR, I will get a text from Robert that says, “YMCA, 1115?”
This is an invitation to meet him at the gym to work out. (Yeah, right.) I don’t even have time to text him back and tell him I can’t go because of everything I have to do. So, I just ignore the message. All day I’ll worry that I’m neglecting our relationship.
To make matter worse, the entire time I’m running all these errands (in the impossible 60 to 90 minute time frame), I’m going to worry that I look like crap because I don’t work out.
And, at least three times before I make it back to my office, I’ll look down and stare at my hands on the steering wheel and feel like a loser because I don’t get regular manicures.
When I get home tonight from working all day at least one of my kids (it’s always one) will say: “Mom, how come you didn’t _____________________________________?” (Fill in the blank.)
How come you didn’t pack the kind of chips I like?
How come you were late?
How come you didn’t come to school mass?
How come you didn’t give me any money for ice cream?
How come you don’t buy me gloves, Mom?
I will quietly mumble to myself, “Because I suck, children. Your mother and her memory totally and unequivocally SUCK.”
A New Study: Multitasking Bad For Health
There’s a new study out by the American Sociological Review that makes me not feel so bad about the dulling edges of my memory. It’s about the hours working moms multitask compared to working dads, and the largely negative emotional impact it has on women.
NPR covered the story last week and spoke with a psychologist from the University of Texas, Austin. Here’s what he said about memory:
“Our brains can only hold so much in working memory. And when we get overloaded, a different set of systems turns on in the brain, chemical systems that are actually related to the stress response, and the neurons in our prefrontal cortex just lose the ability to hold on to information in the same way that they can when we’re not stressed out.”
You can read more of that interview here.
Emotional Well-Being of Mothers Tied To Fathers
Warning: Feminists, brace yourselves. According to the author, the emotional well-being of mothers is tied to the behavior of fathers. (Yeah, baby!) He also believes that one solution is for policymakers and employers to alter current workplace cultures. Here is an excerpt:
“For example, I think that fathers should have more opportunities to leave work early or start work late, so they can participate in important family routines; to take time off for family events; and to limit the amount of work they bring home, so they can pay undivided attention to their children and spouse during the evening hours and on weekends. The goal is to initiate a process that will alter fathers’ personal preferences and priorities and eventually lead to more egalitarian norms regarding mothers’ and fathers’ parenting roles.”
I agree with all this. The only problem is, even though I definitely do more multitasking than my husband, Robert, he is exhausted at the end of the day from work and parenting, too. And, men still don’t live as long as women. Of course, given the rise of stress and disappointment in Generation X women, we may see a reverse or leveling out of that trend over the next 20 years.
Generation X Men
Did I mention how much I worry about Robert? I don’t think I did, but I do. Generation X men are more involved with their kids than any of the generations that have gone before us. So, maybe the solution isn’t dads finding more time to multitask, but moms and dads both doing less. I mean honestly, somebody needs to do something to thwart the growing entitlement of Generation Z. Unfortunately, when it comes to Gen Y, the horse was let out of the barn a way long time ago.