I’ve seen it happen to other women. Now I’m starting to do it too.
We make a big deal out of multi-tasking computers, but the truth is, mothers have been doing it for centuries. Indeed, the average mother handles 406 things per day. A typical day might start like this:
Get up. Get the kids up. Grab a shower. Clean the bathroom. Get dressed. Make the bed. Tidy up the baby’s room. Put on makeup. Clean up the toddler’s room. Make breakfast. Pick the coat up off the floor. Gulp down cereal. Load the dishwasher. Deal with temper tantrum. Sweep the floor. Answer emails. Break up a fight. Answer more emails. Snack time for kids. Pick the coat up off the floor. Answer more emails. Fight with the printer. Field four phone calls. Pick the coat up off the floor. Receive the FedEx package. Make lunch…
This kind of schedule can go on all day every day of the week — or more. A mother will do it all, calmly, with a smile, fuelled by maybe four hours’ sleep a night and several half-cups of cold coffee. And then…
…Clean up lunch. Put kids down for naps. Write proposal. Get kids up from naps. Put out dinner.
See the coat.
On the floor.
As kids, we used to warn each other that Mom Was On The Warpath. I’m pretty sure that mine will grow up to say Look Out, Mum Has Had It. I’m sure you have your own name for it. Whatever it’s called, at this point, all hell breaks loose. You become a whirling dervish. Toys that have been out for days are flung into toy boxes. Kids are frogmarched around to do their chores. Any pet that has the bad fortune to shed just then is brushed within an inch of its life.
This continues until A) Every door and drawer in the house has been slammed, twice or B) The kids, the husband, and the dog have escaped out of range or C) You run out of steam and retreat to a hot bath.
For many women, this kind of explosion happens because they work full-time, raise the kids, tend to the house, organize their social schedules, and their husbands … well, their husbands work full-time. And drop their coats on the floor.
I am lucky to have a supportive husband. He not only knows how to change a diaper, he’s probably done more than me. He sorts laundry and does dishes, he can fix just about anything, and he keeps the yard in top shape. Best of all, I don’t have to ask him to do any of it; it’s truly a 50/50 arrangement. No, you may not borrow him.
The problem with this is that it means that I take on even more — community work, big projects with the kids, ambitious business plans — and then get just as worn out as any other mom.
So, why do we do this? According to all the email forwards I get, it’s because women — especially moms — are exceptional people who work hard because they have impeccable characters. Hmm. I dunno about you, but I can’t claim to be that wonderful. Some scientific researchers might say that it’s all just extended nesting behaviour. Chirp schmirp.
Frankly, I wonder if women do this sort of thing because we like it. Men like to measure each other by the size of their… bank accounts. Women seem to engage in competitive martyrdom. Get any group of women in a room and they will start exchanging stories—ostensibly to commiserate, but possibly really to see to see if they can outdo each other in stories about what they put up with.
On the other hand, perhaps we do take on so much because if we didn’t, the world would have been covered in a thick layer of coats by now.
In any case, my husband is getting adept at reading the signs of impending Kaboom and defusing me. Indeed, without his rock-solid support, I would not be half the mother I am today.
And I say that not just because I mean it, but because this way, if the kids don’t turn out right, I’m already on record as having blamed him.