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Child induced task limbo

I spend a lot of time in a sort of mental limbo. There are projects I’m excited about, that I want to accomplish, but I don’t dare start them because something else is likely to interrupt. The kids are playing and all is quiet. In theory I should snatch the moment for writing. I don’t because I know that in three minutes or fifteen minutes–when I’m mid sentence–a crisis will erupt. I’ll have to feed someone, or mediate video game turns, or find the bandaids. The interruption is not half so troublesome as the irritation. Crafting words is a complex process and there is a moment when I have them arranged in my mind, but I’ve not yet committed them to paper or pixels. That is invariably when the shouts of “Mom!” begin. They shatter my words and I can almost feel the thoughts dissolve into nothing. It is very hard indeed not to turn upon the small person whose plea interrupted my thoughts.

I learned long ago that life is better for everyone when I arrange my activities to match the needs of the family. Housework chores mesh very nicely with the high-needs hours of after school and homework time. Focused work is best done when the kids are at school or settled in long-lasting quiet activities. But some hours are hard to define. Sometimes the three kid Lego game will last for hours of happy play. Other times it will require repeated intervention and a mandatory game end within a mere 20 minutes. If I knew at the beginning of the game which would be the case, then I could plan. Instead I pace through the house, not starting housework, not starting focused work. I want to do the focused project work, but I don’t quite dare start. If I begin housework then I am admitting to myself that focused work is not going to happen. I can linger in that limbo for quite extended (and frustratingly useless) periods of time.

And then there are the times when I start thinking about limbo and end up writing a blog post about it. At least something got done.

This is not a parents-only problem. I find the same limbo when I need to leave for an appointment, or I’m expecting a delivery, or listening for a phone call. Then I end up in endless rounds of clicking on the internet, because I feel like I don’t have enough time to really get into a project. I need to remember my new mother skills. When I had an infant slicing my free time into tiny slivers, I was really good at using five or ten minutes productively. I had to. It was all I had in one span. Now days I find myself thinking that any amount of time less than an hour is not enough to really get things done. Silly. I should just stop worrying about the clock and snatch the time available.

2 comments to Child induced task limbo

  • Laura

    I am usually a very focused person – I get involved in a project or chore and hate to put it down until I am completely finished. Having a baby has forced me to learn to work in tiny slivers for the first time, and while it’s taken me some time to adjust, I think it’s a good skill for later – since I’m now learning as much as I still don’t like it, I am capable of putting a project down and picking it up later without losing track of where I was.

    • Working in slivers is an excellent skill to have. I still prefer to throw myself into a project until it is complete, but then I wear myself out and the project lays idle until I rally the drive to pick it up again. I used to get distracted in the interim, but once I learned to work in slivers, I also learned how not to lose track of projects. And yes, it was a baby that taught it to me.