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Juggling the kids

November 4, 2009

Over at the Dumb Little Man, Ali posted an interesting piece on multitasking. The thrust of the article is the differentiation between tasks that lend themselves to multitasking and the ones that do not. Ali’s first choice for multitasking is childcare (followed by house work and commuting).

Some things lend themselves brilliantly to multi-tasking. These tend to be activities which are purely physical, or which by their nature take a set amount of time to complete – however well you focus. A few examples are:

Childcare. You need to be present for a set amount of time – interacting intensely with the kids won’t make that necessary time any shorter!

    First of all, Ali clearly doesn’t know the first thing about childcare. Paying half-hearted attention to a child is the sure fire way to protract the interaction. Parents’ or caregivers’ attention and validation are top priorities on any child’s list, to the extent that Dreikurs described attention-getting (along with power struggles) as one of the main types of unbalanced parent-child relationships.

    Here’s what happens when people decide to multitask childcare (you do not need to understand Russian to enjoy this):

    I pity a child whose mother wants to “be present for a set period of time.” Children’s emotional, physical, and intellectual well-being requires close interactions. Granted, I too talk to my children while doing laundry, cooking dinner, or sending an email, but this is not childcare.

    Childcare means listening to a child closely to discern her real needs. Childcare means giving the child genuine warmth and unconditional love, critical for building a well-adjusted person. Childcare means taking advantage of teachable moments to help her develop intellectually. Childcare means finding creative and appropriate means of dispensing discipline to help the child integrate into society.

    Childcare is not a physical task that takes a set period of time. It is an intellectual and emotional journey that lasts decades. Its effects play an important role in every aspect of a child’s life well into adulthood. The impact of the “all-important” tasks, which according to Ali require full attention (writing documents, reading, and online research) is not even on the sample scale as the repercussions of good or faulty child rearing.

    Ultimately, 30 years down the road nobody will recall the crucial proposal or the urgent research report in which we’ve instead so much time. But our children will always carry warm childhood memories and hopefully enjoy a close relationship with us, which had evolved during those precious moments of one-on-one interaction.

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    3 Comments leave one →
    1. November 4, 2009 10:39 am

      I think the truth is somewhere in between. Sometimes you can do things while you are with the child and I believe it’s beneficial not to focus on the child all the time. Some parents think they have to sit on the floor and play all day to be a good mother. Even babies need comfort and holding, but the mother’s attention can be directed elsewhere for a large part of the time. I agree that children do need undivided attention at times and it’s up to the parents to make sure the child gets it, even if it’s at an inconvenient time.

      I’m enjoying your blog and liked your guest post at Job Mob.

      • Leah permalink*
        November 4, 2009 10:54 am

        MIL, I am with you 100%. I also don’t believe in devoting ALL energies to the children (parents are also human beings). But when we do decide to be with a child, we need to be there not only physically, but mentally too.

        My problem is with people defining childcare as a purely physical task that doesn’t get any shorter or better when you focus on it. I think motherhood is very undervalued in our society and such blog posts only add to that.

    2. November 4, 2009 11:00 am

      Agreed. You may as well put kids in a cage with that attitude. Did you check the comments?

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