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The Multitasking Mom

Columnist Lynn Nankervis discusses trying to be the "perfect," multitasking mom, and not always living up to the ideal.

I was sitting in the dentist office yesterday morning, having been reminded just an hour before by the calendar alert on my iPhone that my youngest was scheduled for a cleaning. Naturally, this meant a mad dash out the door and a race to the dental office 45 minutes away.

I really need to find a dentist closer to where we live.

Michael was bouncing around the office, weaving in and out of the personal space of other patients waiting their turn in the dental chair. He had one of those coned water cups from the drinking fountain and a golf ball he’d found in his jacket pocket and entertained himself by concealing the ball beneath the cup and pushing it, making it appear that the drinking cup was propelling itself across the carpeted floor.

Meanwhile, I was huddled in a corner of the waiting room talking on my cell phone to an administrator at my oldest son’s high school, attempting to order a graduation cap and gown (apparently it was supposed to be ordered last fall; I must have missed the memo) and ensure its arrival before the June commencement ceremony.

I simultaneously brushed my hair with my fingers and searched through my purse for a lipstick in the pursuit of making myself presentable - a safer alternative than if I had done my primping while driving - all while hissing at Michael under my breath to “put that golf ball away before someone trips over it.”

In other words, I was multitasking.  

It’s not the first time I’ve multitasked in the dental office. As a mom of seven, I have spent a good portion of time waiting for my children's teeth to be cleaned, polished, sealed, filled, pulled, braced and retained.

Some of my best work has been accomplished amidst the sound of drills and the scent of antiseptic.

Yesterday morning I managed to complete the order for Sam’s cap and gown, schedule a hair appointment for myself, write my column, read a chapter of my book, write a thank-you note, order my brother-in-law’s birthday gift, update my Facebook status and contemplate world peace.  

All in the hour that Michael spent in the examination room.

For the majority of us out here in the real world, it is almost impossible to not be a multitasker. We’re constantly getting phone calls, sending texts, checking email, trying to find time to stop and eat something - all while driving to our next appointment.

Still, when I hear the phrase “multitasking mom,” I instantly conjure up a mental image of a well-dressed, put-together woman, workout bag over one shoulder, Coach purse over the other. She looks good, smells good, and her home could easily be on the pages of a magazine. By her 8 a.m. training session at the gym, she has already folded three loads of laundry, put a tasty-but-healthy dinner in the crock pot and cheerfully seen her children off to school. She effortlessly jogs two miles around the track before sprinting off to the shower and heading to her corporate executive office downtown.

Oh, if only I were that cool!

As she departs, I’m left exhausted, not so much by the workout as I am by the thought of keeping up with this perfect mom.

I used to aspire to be that woman until I finally came to terms with the fact that I am no June Cleaver. I don’t know how to bake an apple pie, my house is in serious need of dusting and I most certainly do not wear a dress and high heels to prepare breakfast. In other words, pull the half-empty, probably-stale box of Lucky Charms out of the pantry and toss it on the counter.

But I think that perhaps the fact that I am not your standard cookie-cutter mom – I’m a bit ditsy, a little silly and a “march to the beat of my own drum” kind of mom - is not the end of the world. In fact, maybe it gives my kids a unique perspective on motherhood and multitasking.

Following Michael’s cleaning yesterday, the dental hygienist walked him out to the reception area and we chatted for a minute or two. She told me that she never misses my column while looking at me somewhat curiously, I noticed.

Maybe she thinks I really have it together, I thought, a bit boastfully.

We said goodbye and Michael and I walked out to the car where I slid into the driver’s seat, adjusted the rearview mirror so I could get a quick glimpse of my appearance, and noticed the lipstick smeared all across my teeth.

So much for having it all together!

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