The Importance of Unitasking and Intentionality in Creating the Family Vision.
By Bettina Newton
The average family today withstands an incredible amount of stress coming from every direction. Perhaps it is the countless hours at work that are required by both parents to effectively care for their family. Maybe it’s the demands of schoolwork and navigating the social expectations that are placed on our children. Even still, it may be the heartfelt desire that parents feel to entertain their children and
develop the whole child by sowing into their talents which most times require adhering to a grueling afterschool activity schedule. For the family that must consider how to accommodate a child’s disability, the stressors could be even more intense. There are the financial considerations associated with treatment, the emotional rollercoaster of witnessing your child persevere through the additional
challenges posed by their disability, and not to mention the mental strain of trying to protect the environment of normalcy you’ve created for your child and securing services. Either case, life for today’s family can be hectic and stressful. The goal is to reduce the effect of these stressors on family relationships and marriages, and instead build resiliency within the family.
I know for my family, things can get out of hand quickly. The perfect storm for us is usually created by lack of sleep (or a missed snack), irritating banter between siblings that went a little too far, and for me to be distracted by the many little fires that a mother can typically find herself putting out throughout the day. All these things work together to create a thick tension or frustration and turn the emotional
atmosphere upside down. If seasons of financial uncertainty or emotional, spiritual, and mental depletion are already ruling in your home, and you are running thin on pliancy, little things such as these can completely dismantle and confuse an otherwise healthy family dynamic.
So what do you do? How do you throw a curve ball at this whole thing?
A concept that I have used to guide my whole life but was recently posed to me as a myth. It the idea that “we can have it all.” Let’s investigate, shall we? Now I know that can sound extremely disappointing news when you look at it at first glance, but I believe they may be onto something. Let’s examine what it means to have it all and what sources usually influence that perspective. Typically, society tells us that mothers can have the perfect body (whatever that is, right), great hair and skin,
enjoy great health (with little to no exercise, mind you because who has the time), operate successfully in the job they want, have the financial security we desire, raise obedient and successful children, marry (and get to spend regular time with) the handsome and attentive husband, and on a consistent basis have girls night out with devoted friends- if -they try harder, think positive, or just make it happen. But
how many of us are truly walking in this experience? Most of us would say, something on this list is lacking in one way or another, right? Then we are overwhelmed with guilt and disappointment because we are trying to figure out how Sheila is able to live this amazing life and I can’t. What am I doing wrong? I pose to you the question; how do you possibly concentrate on all areas of your life with the
same sort of effort, dedication, time, and passion? The answer is it’s nearly impossible. There is no amount of multitasking that you will be able to do to make your Facebook life, that Hallmark movie, and real life all come together. Actually, research suggests that multitasking is counterproductive, and it is unitasking that increases optimal functioning (Barham, 2017). So, what is unitasking? I’m glad you asked. It is giving focused energy to one task at a time. I already know what you are thinking, I don’t have time to do one thing at a time, nothing would get done! But it is suggested that multitasking will prolong the time it takes for you to get where you want to go in life and negatively affects the quality of input that you invest in any particular task. Whereas unitasking increases effort, attention, and engagement in the activity ahead of you (Barham, 2017). Contrary to everything mothers have been
taught, right? So how do we apply this to our myth? Well, aiming to having “it” all encourages the rat race where inefficient multitasking is the name of the game. What is “it” anyway? Am I right? We shouldn’t aim to have “it” all but have what matters. This forces us to operate in a more deliberate and focused manner. So what matters to YOUR family? What are the needs of YOUR family? What is healthiness to YOUR family? These questions and others inform our activities, decisions, the legacy we
want to leave, behaviors, and our example. It removes the comparisons we make of ourselves to what we believe are other supermoms, parents or perfect marriages and kids, it erases the guilt of not measuring up to society’s standards of what it means to be normal, successful, or having it all. We frame our own criteria for these things. Having it all is determined by us and it may look different for different families.
So now we have asked ourselves these hard questions and we’ve had a chance to really meditate on the answers, the next step requires action. It is to interject intentionality into our plan. This means no more reaction, but now we are moving forward with intention and purpose to live out our family’s vision. This is much harder than you think because you may not look like those around you or giving into the same creeds as friends and family members you know. The pressure to conform can sometimes be a heavy one. But you are now moving with focused energy so it gives you the confidence to say no to engaging in something that may take you off course (not just activities but ways of thinking too) or yes to trying something new that may put your family in a better position, to ask a family member or friend for help in an area of need, to rest when necessary, to push through, to persevere through major disappointments, and to find strength in the bleak moments. So to the single working mother who is trying to provide financially for her children’s needs and wants but also desires to increase ways to spend time with her children too, she no longer has to worry about putting them in 3 different activities because all the other kids are doing it too. She can narrow it down to one they love and use the extra time to relax and spend time with them. To the stay at home mother who is feeling guilty for not providing financial contributions into her home but is tending to her children’s emotional and behavioral wellbeing, she no longer has to worry about ways to start a business (if that’s not where her ambition lies) or brainstorm ways to work from home. She is making an invaluable contribution into the next
generation that can’t be quantified. To the working mother who loves being a wife and mother but loves her career too, she no longer has to feel guilty about pursuing a successful career but can learn new ways to involve her family in her accomplishments. Therefore, leaving a legacy that demonstrates that family is a part of everything that you do not a hindrance to it. To the family who has one child that
suffers from a disability that ties up much of the family’s financial and emotional resources and other children who do not have a disability and often feel overwhelmed by their circumstance but don’t feel they can say anything. They can! They can access a support network, either through family and friends or an organization. It’s okay to not be okay. They can use the challenges and successes to strengthen the family’s resiliency. This can be an example to people within their sphere of influence and they can make a lasting impression on those they encounter.
Don’t be afraid to challenge those good ole societal norms for the benefit of your family. Nor should you be afraid to slow down and be present in a world who heralds operating like a computer to be an achievement. Let’s slow down to speed up. Push away the guilt and comparison. Engage and prosper in our family vision, whatever that may look like for you. That is what it truly means to have it all.
Barham, Lauren (2017). http://www.enterprising-women.org/unitasking- vs-multitasking- how-mindfully-
reduce-stress- and-anxiety [Blog].