Should is a Stupid Word

I wish I was an octopus. I wish I had 8 tentacles and I could grab a bunch of stuff and do a bunch of stuff with my tentacles all at once. I wish I could clone myself and be in two places at once or at least be in two rooms of my house at the same time. Being a caregiver/parent requires one to be very good at multi-tasking. One must be able to bring 10 bags of groceries in from the car while carrying a toddler. One must be able to hold a child, whose nose is bleeding, while also watching a pot of pasta boiling on the stove. One must be able to relieve him or herself in the bathroom while making sure a child isn't setting the house on fire for heating macaroni in the microwave for 10 minutes. One must be able to get a good night's rest while being up all night with a sick child with a temp and a horrible cough. One must find time for him or herself while being someone else's whole universe. Being a parent and an individual human being at the same time feels like an oxymoron. It just isn't possible.

Now, some experts out there will tell you that multi-tasking is an oxymoron. I'm sure some of you have tried the exercise outlined in this article from Psychology Today: Apparently, we can't actually do many things at once. Our brains are just jumping really quickly from focusing on one task to another. I can walk and chew gum, I can run and hold a conversation (most of the time), I can sing and dance (poorly but simultaneously), I can read a book and listen to music and I just tried rubbing my head and belly at the same time and did it quite well. That's about the extent of my multi-tasking or switch-tasking. Or rather, that's the extent of what I can do successfully. I do a ton of other switch-tasking every day but it's done ineffectively and sadly, embarrassingly poor, much of the time. On any given day, I have a number of tasks to complete and am asked to complete more tasks as the day progresses and as I attempt to complete them, my brain feels like a jumbled cobweb of words and images. I get sweaty and overwhelmed until one solid image always comes into my mind: me, tumbling down a hill into a puddle of mud.

Not a day goes by that someone doesn't say to me "Did you" or "Can you" or "will you" or "I need you to". I try to clear out the cobwebs in my brain so that I can switch-task as fast as possible and decrease the cans and shoulds and will yous in my life. I make lists on notepads and lists on Evernote and lists on my phone. I say sorry over and over again. We are a world of fast communication and instant gratification. We are connected to our kids and our families and our friends and our jobs 24/7. This turns the pressure to timely task into an immense, inescapable burden. People expect emails returned in hours, text messages in minutes. We send read receipts so people can't pretend they didn't get the email. Our phones tell us when recipients have read our messages. Then, there's kids, whose sense of time is compacted. Wait a minute, to a kid, feels like being told to wait two hours, especially if the kid needs to go to the bathroom, is hungry or wants their stuffed animal from high atop a bookshelf. Telling a kid to wait a minute is like telling a kid the end of the world is near.

Several years ago, as I was telling one kid to wait a minute while helping the other kid, or while I was trying to tie a shoe and change a diaper, I added a phrase to "In a minute" and I said to my children, "Mommy is just one person." It became my mantra. I breathe in air and exhale out," I am just one person." It is my Mommy March Cadence. Of course, I can say this to my kids, who completely ignore it, but I can't say it to, oh for example, my boss who has asked me to complete a project under deadline, or a police officer who has pulled me over for speeding because I was trying to get to the afterschool care site before it closes and I get fined for a late pick up. These people might actually listen to me however, they don't care. They have their own task list, their own set of did you, can you and will you requests. Their brains likely have a few cobwebs they are clearing, as well. Each of us is assigned tasks, every day, from someone else, and the demands domino down and around us. We take on pressures and pass the pressures on in a never-ending cycle that creates the demand to switch-task.

I know that my kids aren't listening to me most of the time and I know that, for my own preservation, I can't tell all of the people around me that I'm "just one person". For the most part, my cadence must be silent. However, there is one person who can listen to my mantra and can respect it. That's me. Every day, when I feel like a total failure because I forgot to pack a pudding for the kids' snack, or I get in my car and it smells like vomit, or I look at my wrinkled eyes and remember I should start wearing make-up, or I get a text from a friend because I forgot to reply about a girls' night out, or I get an angry email from a student because it's been 24 hours and I've not yet replied to his request to set up an appointment, or I get home at 6 and Andy asks if I called the eye doctor and I say no I forgot because, from the time I woke up until this very moment I've not stopped moving or doing or accumulating can yous, I need to let my Mommy March Cadence flow from me and through me, penetrating each of those cobwebs and images that fill my brain and make me feel so very small and not good at all. I am just one person. I am. Just. One Person.

Yes, I should parent more. I should work more. I should spend more time with friends and family. I should travel more. I should save more money. I should eat less junk food. I should blog more. I should. I should. I should.

A wise friend recently told me "Don't should on yourself."

My response to this was,of course, "Ahhh! You're right. I should stop being so hard on myself.


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