My name is Ursula and I am multitasking addict.
Living in Silicon Valley, working moms take multitasking to the extreme. We are always on, leaning in, reclining or shrugging it off. Our worlds revolve around the hamster wheel of innovation and progress. Always pushing us forward into the unknown void of a supposedly better future. And if you can’t multitask, you’re going to fall off that wheel or loose a limb or two. So, is multitasking endemic to our environment or part of our DNA?
For me, it’s a little bit of both. Even before the digital age, I was always someone who had to be doing 5 things at once. Maybe that is why I am ambidextrous and today can watch multiple TV shows while checking work emails, writing book #2, and creating this blog. But I’m also a multitasking addict because of the choices I have made in being a mother, my career and wanting to spend more time with my family. And I think I am not alone. How many of you working moms have found yourself in this situation:
7 AM. I have a headset in my ears, phone by my side and laptop on the kitchen counter. I log into the connect session for my second call of the morning. As I wait for coworkers to join the call, I feed our dog, Maverick, and then begin prepping breakfast and lunch. Oh yes, I forgot to mention my husband is in Europe on a business trip—he also works in high tech. As the call begins, I look at the agenda then head upstairs to wake the kids as I listen to the first speaker.
My kids are 8 and 10 years old, so fortunately, they are used to this routine. And I rarely get any grief from them especially when Maverick is with me, ready to give them a juicy kiss. I wake them up, give them a quick hug and point to the morning “To Do” check list posted outside the bathroom door: Go to the bathroom, brush teeth, brush hair, get dressed, make beds. They have until 7:30 AM to make it downstairs. I continue to listen to the first speaker and can actually visualize the Powerpoint slide he is referencing. As I walk back into the kitchen, I check my author Twitter account and schedule a couple tweets.
Once in the kitchen, I position my laptop behind the food prep workspace. I can see the presentation and actually engage in conversation about the topic while I spread mustard on a piece of wheat bread. As I reach in the refrigerator for the turkey meat, I receive a text from my husband, “How are you?” I type my response, “Great. How are you? On a call, let’s talk in 30.” As I hit the send button, I hear my name mentioned on the call. I make a comment about the topic. And then if on queue, my son runs into the kitchen followed by my barking dog. I hastily hit the mute button on my phone as a co-worker makes a crack about my living in the “Wild Kingdom.” I continue with the call, pack sandwiches into lunch bags and then start in on making breakfast. I cut up some fruit and scramble some eggs. The call ends. I yell out, “breakfast,” and the kids come running in. I take the headset off and sit down at the kitchen table. We discuss our plans for the day as we eat.
This might seem extreme but this doesn’t happen all the time. And I do set aside time every day to disconnect from my electronics. If I meet people face-to-face, I engage in a conversation without checking my phone ten times. Family dinners are mandatory and a time to reconnect. And unless I have an important project, I don’t check work email on the weekends. Yes, at times it is exhausting to be a multitasking addict, but without it, I wouldn’t be able to find that precious quality time with my family. And to be honest, that’s just how most of us moms roll, living and working in Silicon Valley.