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Finding Peace Amid Chaos

Posted Sep 05 2008 6:14am
By Susan Callahan, Anne Nolen and Katrin Schumann
Authors of Mothers Need Time-Outs, Too
In the old days, multi-tasking meant cooking dinner while holding a baby on your hip. Nowadays, that mom at the stove has almost certainly just come home from work. The Blackberry in her back pocket is probably buzzing. She's trying to finish reading the latest book on which food colorings to avoid and how much protein is too much. Most likely, the television's blaring in the background and she's worrying about how to get her kids off the X-Box.

Life has gotten awfully noisy, and it's become harder and harder for moms to find peace in the mayhem.

Do you:
Dream constantly about the future, but find it hard to enjoy the day-to-day?

Dwell in the past, musing over the good old days?

Rush through fun activities, so you can get to the work or chores that need to be done?

Wake at night thinking about your to do list?

Have a tight chest during everyday activities?

If you find yourself saying yes to too many of the above, you urgently need a time-out! In talking to hundreds of mothers while researching Mothers Need Time-Outs, Too, we discovered that the happiest moms are the ones who are able to slow down and savor the moment.

Ironically, in our modern culture, women see multitasking as positive; in school, during their careers and as parents, they are constantly expected to juggle multiple balls in the air all at once. And, let's be honest, how often have you moaned about men being incapable of multitasking? We sure have!
Authors Susan Callahan, Katrin Schumann and Anne Nolen.

In a 2006 article in Neuron, Rene Marois, a neuroscientist and director of the Human Information Processing Laboratory at Vanderbilt University said, "The human brain, with its hundred billion neurons and hundreds of trillions of synaptic connections, is an amazing cognitive powerhouse, but a core limitation is an inability to concentrate on two things at once." Through functional magnetic resonance imaging, Dr. Marois conducted a study proving that people completed assignments more effectively - more quickly and with fewer errors - when concentrating on a single task at a time rather than spreading themselves thin.

In other words, by putting so much on our plates, we're setting ourselves up for failure: juggling ten things at once means we can’t do any of them well.

There's also another problem and it's the effect all this multi-tasking and juggling we do has on our kids. They're watching us; they emulate what they see. Colleen, a Maryland high school teacher and mother of three, says kids of today are so busy and spend so much time socializing on the computer instead of hanging out face-to-face, that they find interpersonal relationships hard. "I see these kids in school who barely know how to have a real conversation anymore," she said.

So what's the solution? Mothers need to model what it's like to really pay attention to someone by looking people in the eyes, listening, and absorbing what they're saying. If they slow down a bit, concentrating on doing one thing at a time and doing it well, they'll teach their children by example how to plug into the moment and live more consciously.
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