When I was a kid, the radio was often on in my house. My mom was not really into music, but she did enjoy talk radio. This was especially true on days when there weren’t many people home and my mom was cleaning. To this day, if I pop by on a house-cleaning day, my mom will be listening to something as she works, only now it’s usually an audio book on her iPad that she pauses when I arrive.
I must take after her because I have recently discovered the 2016 version of talk radio: podcasts. Only they are better than the radio because they can be so much more specific. Imagine your favourite morning DJ’s doing whatever it is they do that you like best, and I guarantee you can find a podcast just like that. I like comedy podcasts, interesting interviews, the day’s news highlights in 10 minutes, investigative journalism, story-telling … there’s something for my every mood.
I try not to be on my phone too much during the day, for the reasons we all know already. So when I first started to listen to podcasts, I would try to save them until I was home alone, or for when I was focused on a specific task that was a bit mundane. Cleaning the bathrooms for example. Or putting away laundry. But then I started to notice something. If I multi-task parenting and podcasting, it sometimes makes me a BETTER parent. Seriously.
First, I must acknowledge that this is obviously not always true. If one of my children is trying to tell me about something that happened at school or ask me questions, or if it takes them a long time to get my attention because I’m so distracted, that is obviously not good. There are many circumstances in which my family deserves my full attention. But I am not talking about those circumstances.
So when does having a current-events-comedy-quiz-show playing in my earbuds make me a better parent? Well let me answer that question with a question: how long can you play Candyland with a three year old before you lose patience? How long do you last at the park when your toddler insists on being pushed on the swing the whole time? Have you ever gone for a walk with a four-year-old and tried not to say “hurry”? Well, wouldn’t all of those things be way better if you were just a little bit preoccupied?
Here’s the thing. When my second grader is telling me about her school day, I need to be listening. But when my two year old is telling me that she wants juice even though I’ve already said no, it’s really in both of our best interests if I’m only half listening.
Besides, if something important comes up, such as she starts asking for cookies instead of juice, earbuds these days come with a super handy little pause/play button right on the cord, so I don’t even have to pull the phone out of my back pocket to shift my focus. Total neglect: avoided.
So I guess what I’m saying is that my secret to being a good-enough parent in those in-between times is the fact that I can tune out partially. Not fully, just partially. Half of me is watching my kids play in the sandbox, the other half is engrossed in a great conversation between two adults, when adult company is what I’m craving. Because whatever keeps me from full-on insanity is a benefit to myself and my family, isn’t it? Yes. Yes it is.