Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Why just thinking about my busy mum is so tiring

It seems that 24 hours in a day just isn't enough anymore. A report out this week by an American think-tank shows that modern city-dwelling types who work full-time and run a home are cramming up to 31 hours into each day.

Electronic gadgets such as laptops and mobile phones are enabling us to perform a number of tasks at once — the phenomenon known as multi-tasking.

A perfect example they give is a businessman reading emails on a hand-held Blackberry while making toast in a toaster and listening to the news headlines on a radio.

And apparently women can multi-task much more proficiently than men. Like we didn't know that already ...

Last week I saw a woman driving a people carrier, stopped at traffic lights, feeding a baby from a jar with a spoon, while chatting on her hands-free.

Very dangerous and yet impressive all the same.

And yet I am still amazed when I think about my mum and how she coped way back in the days before high-technology, when an electric kettle which took half an hour to boil was the very height of mod-con sophistication.

The phrase 'multi-tasking' didn't exist in those days, but if it did, it would have applied to her more than anyone.

Sunday, for example, is supposed to be a day of rest. But mum and dad would get up at the crack of dawn and start the first big task of the day — breakfast for eight kids and two adults all served simultaneously.

Industrial-sized teapot at the ready, eight mugs lined up plus two plastic beakers of juice for the babies. Two catering-sized toasters constantly on the go. A jar of jam which generally lasted one sitting before a new one would have to be cracked open.

Next, she co-ordinated multiple bathtime for five little girls all with long hair which needed washed, brushed and dried before church. Usually one of us got shampoo in her eyes and then the wailing started, which was only drowned out once the hairdryer noise joined in the chaos.

From there it was best dresses and shiny shoes on and into the car for the first drop-off at church.

Two journeys usually did it, if we squashed and sat on each others knees, then at last mum and dad got 50 minutes rest while the priest droned on in Latin.



Then, it was back to business. Sunday dinner for 10 to prepare. Mum couldn't do anything in advance, either, because she never had any spare time nor the extra space in the fridge to store par-boiled spuds or pre-peeled carrots. So off came the best coat and straight on went the apron.

One laborious roast dinner served up conveyor-belt style later, then there was a mountain of dishes to conquer. all that and it was still early afternoon.

We did, of course, try to help out as much as we could, but usually became more of a hindrance by squabbling, giggling and acting the goat and were promptly sent away again.

In the background, the washing machine was continually whirling round. Eight school uniforms for us kids, nighties, pyjamas, all in multiples of 10, plus 10 white coats to launder, starch and press for dad's dental surgery. Only then, when all that was finished, could my mum get on with her part-time job as administrator for dad's practice. And, of course, bedtime stories multiplied by eight.

That's what I call multi-tasking. I'd like to see American think-tank executives attempting all that in 24 hours.

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