She is finally asleep; I can sit in the next room and try to get some writing done. Since she arrived, my priorities have switched entirely. My normally-clean house is chaotic and messy. I can’t find anything. When I sit at the desk, writing, my senses are on high alert; the ear facing her room seems to grow larger, like the horn on an old Victrola. At the slightest whimper, I am clambering out of my chair to check on her.
Before she entered our lives, I had begun to believe my husband’s views regarding multi-tasking. Dan, who is of a more scientific bent than I, quotes scientific studies to back up his opinions, “It is a total fallacy that people can split their attention,” says he; “All that really happens when people try to attend to two tasks at once is that one task gets most of the attention and the other gets neglected. It’s like saying that a person can be in two places at once. It’s not scientifically accurate. I’ve read tons of studies on this.”
My response to his taking this tack too often when our opinions differ is usually something like, “I really cannot imagine how you get your job done in-between all this science reading you claim to do.” In this particular case, it’s usually women who claim to be multitaskers. Take me, for example. On any given day I may be doing a load of wash, making two huge pots of different soups, and writing a story, keeping track of all three through strategic use of timers. I can work on a painting just fine while listening to the Public Radio, too.
Honestly, I think it is men who cannot do more than one thing at a time, and they, therefore, refuse to believe that anyone can. This is not to say that they don’t try at some stage of life. Most youngsters, (including the high-school aged Dan) have tried doing homework while watching TV, and failed. In view of this fact, I was just beginning to come around to Dan’s point when our little girl arrived.
But Dan has been proven wrong! Even when I am (as writers and artists say) ‘in the zone,’ (that psychological state where you are so lost in your creation that your body seems to disappear), I am thinking of the impossibly soft texture of her dusty-black baby hair, so fine and soft next to her perfect little ears. She is teething, which makes her irritable and inclined to whimper if there isn’t something in her mouth constantly. When I gather her up on my lap and give her an ice cube to chew, she watches me intently. While studying her face, her little pink nose and her beautiful eyes (her right eye is blue, her left, hazel) I am silently composing a story, an essay or my next blog.
Perhaps the first day Dan stays home with her by himself, he will abandon his data-based opinion in the face of reality. Once our little girl starts gnawing the table leg or pooping on the kitchen floor because Dan is otherwise occupied (and can only think about one thing at a time,) he will come to appreciate, and maybe even learn to split his attention. An eleven week-old Border Collie puppy doesn’t care about scientific data unless she gets to chew on it.