Interrupt me one more time…
If you asked me the hardest thing about parenting….I’m mean, pull up a chair. I’m not sure I’d even know where to start.
But I have noticed in my 5.5 years of Mamahood, one of the things I struggle most with and feel rawly triggered by is being constantly interrupted. I say this as a gal who tears up regularly with the sheer gratitude of getting to nurture these incredible little humans. So I truly, deeply appreciate how ridiculously lucky I am to be in the position I am. It’s an honour I don’t take lightly.
But let’s be honest abut the challenges too, because fork knows they exist and they’re really, really hard. Like the interruption thing.
In the field of positive psychology, there’s a state they’ve identified called Flow, which is basically when you become so deeply and fully absorbed in an activity that the outside world ceases to exist to you. You are at one with whatever you’re doing and your brain is in a state of relative bliss. For some, it’s being completely engrossed in a book, painting a picture, playing a piece of music. A surgeon performing a procedure, a surfer on a wave, or any one of us engaged in any activity that requires concentration, effort and presence. It’s almost like time and space no longer exist and all that matters is whet you’re doing right there, in that moment. There is complete and total immersion.
Well parenting is kind of like anti-flow. The polar opposite of flow, where every thought or activity you set out to engage in is interrupted. Repeatedly. Consistently. Every minute of your waking day. You can’t have a thought, take a shower, complete a task, do a damn poo without being interrupted. You sit down to send an email, someone gets hurt and needs immediate attention. You start the dinner when war breaks out in the background. By the time you return, its burnt and as you try to gather your thoughts and make a new plan, you’re interrupted by a little person demanding raisins in the green bowl (don’t you DARE reach for the blue one) who is ready to bring forth emotional Armageddon if this criteria isn’t met promptly. Everything is interrupted. All. The. Time.
And it has a very real impact on us. A researcher paper from th Universities of Illinois and Minnesota measuring effects of interruption on task performance, error rate, and affective state, showed that “when peripheral tasks interrupt the execution of primary tasks, users require from 3% to 27% more time to complete the tasks, commit twice the number of errors across tasks, experience from 31% to 106% more annoyance, and experience twice the increase in anxiety.”
To add to that, it seems that however brief an interruption, it takes on average 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track after a distraction. Chalk up the number of times a day that you’re interrupted and suddenly your being a frazzled hot mess makes total sense.
So, parents of young children, listen up: if those relentless interactions have you feeling all ragey and quietly wondering if any child has, in fact, been successfully auctioned off of eBay, just remember that you’re not crazy: your brain is being physically messed with each time a shitstorm breaks out in the background and derails both your thought process and sanity. You are being jolted constantly away from focus and from that beautiful state of flow. But it won’t last forever. Yes, it sucks to operate from such a disjointed and chaotic place, but as a friend of mine with a preteen recently reminded me, it’s all over in a flash and they go from being dependant on you every hour of the day, to not wanting or needing to be around you at all.
This too shall pass.
And in the meantime, managing your own expectations might be the sweet relief you’re seeking while the tinies are still tiny.
Personally, I’ve stopped fighting with it so much, because like any challenge in life, it’s the thoughts and emotions that we attach to it that will dictate how much of an impact it will have on us. If I’m trying to get some work done and some kind of child related chaos kicks off in the background, as tempting as it is to get caught up in what bullshit this is/I’m just trying to get some work done/this is unjust/I have a right to some headspace/blah blah (all valid points to be fair), I’ll just end up resentful and angry. Which I have done, many times. So I’ve had to really, reeeeeally work hard to amend my expectations of what it is to be around small children. They need shit, all the time. They will interrupt, CONSTANTLY. They will interrupt an interruption. And that is just the way it is. I can accept this reality, or fight with it. My pay off for the gift of these precious beings is that I’m simply going to be constantly interru-