When Undivided Attention's Divided


September 3 , 2022
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at kidyyidnekachew@gmail.com. )


Multitasking puts pressure on the mind. I go through intense mental labour whenever I try to juggle between two or more activities, especially tasks that require undivided attention. Seemingly more straightforward tasks such as watching TV while eating also have a disadvantage as we are not eating mindfully. Some research shows it is not good for our digestive system and overall health.

The only time multitasking ought to be tolerated is for moms. Even then, stress and burnout are a risk. Most of us, especially women, hate it when someone is talking to us while looking at their phone, as it gives us the impression that they are more interested in their phone than our presence.

Recently I went to visit a relative and what I saw at her house made me think twice about multitasking. The phenomenon is widespread in most households. We see housemaids entertaining themselves while carrying out their chores. It could be watching TV, listening to music, cooking, or cleaning the house. Sometimes we find them glued to the TV while a baby is crying or children are screaming. That is just being neglectful.

It was worse when she tried to justify her absentmindedness. For instance, when I arrived at my relative’s house, she was not there. I told her I would wait for her as I wanted to talk to her about something important. While entering the house, I was greeted warmly by the sweet innocent-looking help. She was holding my relative’s baby boy, who is about 10 months old. The maid asked me if I needed anything. I said that I was good for the moment. She then excused herself, saying she had to get back to her work. I was surprised she talked about her chores with excitement. Then she went to the other room and disappeared.

When I wanted to use the bathroom and was heading there, though, I spotted her watching something on her phone while trying to feed the baby. She kept missing her target as she was caught up with whatever she was watching. She eventually put the baby down and continued to watch the video. But the baby got a hold of the food and made a mess. When she got up to look for wipes to clean up, her eyes were glued to her phone. Unbeknownst to her, the baby had gotten up and slipped on the wet floor. He started crying from the top of his lungs. I went to him and picked him up.

She seemed a little shocked that I had come out of nowhere. She said the baby spilt the food and was trying to stand over it. I told her that I watched the whole thing and that had she not been on her phone, then the incident would have been avoided.

This is just a minor incident, but her lack of attention to the baby could have caused him harm had he been in a serious situation. Maybe it is my overprotective nature and ability to assume the worst-case scenario when kids are involved, but I was mad at her and told her off. She insisted that she usually multitasked between the house chores and taking care of him, and so far nothing had happened.

I believe looking after younger children who started walking should be done with undivided attention as they could harm themselves easily. She later apologised and said it would not happen again. My relative and I also explained why multitasking could be dangerous.

Taking care of children all day could be too much and one might need some way to blow off steam, but it should not come at a cost to the well-being of kids.



PUBLISHED ON Sep 03,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1166]



Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at kidyyidnekachew@gmail.com.





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