Are you a supertasker?
Are you the 1 in 200 who is really, really good at juggling? This mom of three thinks she might be.
It was one of those days: I was preparing for a Very Important Meeting and I had colleagues and bosses approaching me from all sides needing me to do other Important and Urgent things. As I ran from one workstation to another and juggled three tasks at a time, I mused to my single mom colleague: ‘How many jobs do they expect me to do in one day?’

‘You’re a mother,’ she said. ‘So you can manage about 150.’

Too true.

I remember doing my daughter’s hair one morning this week. ‘I like it when you do my plaits, mom,’ she said to me. ‘I can’t do it, because I only have two hands.’

‘And how many do I have?’ I asked.

‘You have more than two hands, mom,’ said my son, ‘because you’re a mommy.’

Multitasking. It’s a skill often associated with women and particularly mothers. We’re very scathing about men in this regard, because we believe we hold the patent on this particular skill. “He can’t chew and breathe at the same time,” we quip.

But a recent study quoted on the New York Times’s website reveals that only 2% of the population can actually multitask effectively. These rare individuals have been labelled ‘supertaskers’.

‘The researchers found that about 2.5% of the college students they studied were able to simultaneously talk on the phone while navigating in a driving simulator. By comparison, the other students in the study saw their driving performance fall 20 to 30%… The supertaskers ‘were completely unimpaired.’ The study called them ‘rare but intriguing individuals with extraordinary multitasking ability.’

So are we moms those ‘rare individuals’ or are we just kidding ourselves?

The ugly side of multitasking

I often tell the story of how I learned to multitask hours after my first son was born: while he breastfed, I taught myself to eat with one hand and hold a book in the other. Later, as the family grew, my skill grew correspondingly. My darkest multitasking moment has to be wiping my son’s bottom while simultaneously breastfeeding my 3-week-old daughter.

Mornings are probably when I’m at my multitasking best: filling the lunchboxes while drinking tea, while telling the kids to finish their breakfast, while thinking about what I have to do later in the day, while telling the kids to finish their breakfast, while packing away the dishes and signing homework diaries, while telling the kids to finish their breakfast.

If that isn’t multitasking, then I don’t know what is.

If you have kids, you’ll know what it is to carry on three conversations simultaneously. ‘You know mom…’ says one. While he draws a breath, the other sees the gap and dives in: ‘Mommy, tomorrow can we…’ Completely ignoring the first two, the third chirps, ‘Mom, I can’t find my sports uniform.’

Fun times.

According to the researchers of that study, there’s little likelihood that I’m a supertasker or even a multitasker:  ‘Some readers may also be wondering if they too are supertaskers,’ said the paper by Mr. Strayer and his colleague, Jason Watson. ‘We suggest the odds of this are against them.’

And this mom says: ‘Yeah. Right.’

Has parenting increased your ability to juggle many tasks at the same time? And has there been a dark side?

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