Many of us remember
the iconic fried egg from the anti-drug commercial of the '80s. "This is your brain on
drugs," the narrator warned us. "Any questions?"
The message was quite
clear: drugs would fry our brains, like an egg crackling in a skillet.
I've come to realize
that becoming a parent can have a similar effect on the brain. While the
comparisons between using illegal drugs and parenting are few and far between, one
thing is quite clear to me: parenting has scrambled my brains, like an eggy
mess that's been broken, stirred and flipped into oblivion.
It's not that I
completely lack concentration. It's just that ... MOMMY, I WANT BANANA.
BANANA. BANANA WITH PEANUT BUTTER PLEEEEEEASE … since having children,
I lack the ability to focus on one thought or task for an extended period of
time. Something, or someone, is always competing for my attention: a hungry
belly, a diaper, a carpool, a permission slip ... HE KEEPS TOUCHING ME
AND HE WON'T STOP WHEN I ASK HIM TO STOP MAKE HIM STOP, MOM! ... that I must sign.
Most of the time, it's not the big-picture parenting worries that get me down. It's the minutiae, the tiny details, the requests that eat away at my focus each
and every day.
This is not to say
that I cannot concentrate when it comes to work-related issues. On the
contrary, parenting has improved my ability to multi-task and complete diverse
goals in an efficient and effective manner.
MOM! …ability diminishes
greatly when I'm with my children. Even the simple task of thinking a single
thought—whether I need to pick up milk at the grocery store, what time I need
to leave for work or when I should return that phone call—is met with constant … MOM, CAN YOU HELP ME
WITH THIS PROJECT? IT'S DUE TOMORROW … interruption.
This problem isn't a
matter of asking my husband to take on more household duties, so that I can have
a quieter, more focused mind. In fact, he and I split chores fairly evenly. I
cook. He washes the dishes. I do the laundry. He cleans the cat litter box. We
envision our marriage as a partnership, and we try to make the work we do as
parents as equal as possible.
What's more, he feels the burden of diminished
concentration too. We are parents. And
when we are parenting, there is no … I GOT POOP ON MY
HANDS, MAMA … guarantee of a
quieter, more focused mind. Ever.
I can practice
mindfulness. I can do yoga and go for long walks. I can go on weekend getaways.
Joy of all joys, I can even go to the grocery store all by myself.
But these efforts can
only go so far. Someone always … MY SOCCER CLEATS DON'T
FIT ANYMORE, MOM … needs something.
With that said, I have
noticed that the constancy of these needs has tapered off a bit with my older
children (ages 9 and 6). They grow more independent and self-sufficient with
each passing year. But that self-sufficiency hasn't quite developed in my 3-year-old. Or any toddler and … WAAAAAH! WAAAAAAH!
WAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHHH! … baby, for that
matter. Children this age are almost entirely dependent on their parents for food, shelter,
clothing, cleanliness, attention, entertainment, language-development, safety … LOOK AT ME, MOMMY! I
JUMP OFF COUCH LIKE SUPERMAN! … and require an almost
It's a type of
attention that leaves little room for a parent to concentrate on anything but … WANT TO PLAY PLAYDOH?
PLAY GAME? READ BOOKS! I DON'T WANT BOOKS, I WANT TO COLOR! I HUNGRY! NO
STRAWBERRIES, I HATE STRAWBERRIES! I THROW STRAWBERRIES ON THE FLOOR! … parenting.
With my focus so
disparate, my mind so chaotic, I sometimes wonder if I'll ever return to my
pre-parenting levels of focus. Must I wait until the kids are grown? Until they're
out of the house? Until they're settled into their adulthood?