On multitasking, chores and peace in the home
I have long known that either it were not true that women are multitasking queens, or it were not true that I am a woman. I cannot multitask. Every. Single. Time I try to cook breakfast while hanging the washing, the eggs burn. I cannot talk on the phone while I am driving round trying to find a party venue. And I abandon my attempts at writing a coherent blog post after the third request for lunch…
I used to feel strangely substandard due to this inability to do what all women were brilliant at. Which is why I felt elated when I came across research recently that found ‘differences in multitasking costs across men and women remained absent’. Read a summary of that research here:
Psychologist Patricia Hirsch, and her collaborators at RWTH Aachen University and University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany, set out to find out if the stereotype that women are better multitaskers than men might be backed by empirical evidence. To find out, the team had experimental participants (48 women and 48 men) conduct either concurrent or sequential multitasking. Both tasks required participants to categorize letters as consonant versus vowel, and numbers as odd versus even. An important feature of the study was that, in addition to collecting performance measures (accuracy and reaction times) in the tasks above, the researchers also accounted for possible underlying gender differences in working memory, processing speed, spatial abilities, and fluid intelligence.
The results indicated that, whereas both concurrent and sequential multitasking imposed substantial costs on performance, the deterioration applied to both genders equally. Even when controlling for potential differences in cognitive abilities that might support multitasking, “differences in multitasking costs across men and women remained absent.”https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/illusion-chasers/no-women-cant-multitask-either/
This at least redeemed me. I was a normal woman after all! And my experience of overwhelm at times was a perfectly reasonable way for a brain to react to SO MANY DEMANDS. I breathed a sigh of relief and stopped trying to do everything at once.
But of course I still had to do most things. It is still I who cook the breakfast and hang the washing, just not simultaneously. There is ample evidence that women still do more housework than men, no matter who the breadwinner is. Us women aren’t better multitaskers than men, we just do more work. And if you look to the bees and the lions, that seems to be the way it goes in nature.
Public opinion persists that women have a biological edge as super-efficient multitaskers. But, as this study shows, this myth is not supported by evidence. This means the extra family work women perform is just that – extra work. And we need to see it as such.https://www.sciencealert.com/women-aren-t-better-multitaskers-than-men-they-re-just-doing-more-work
There is an American blogger who feels like my friend, even though she certainly does not know that I exist. Her name is Emily Lex. I think it was 2017 when she wrote the following:
Washing dishes used to be a point of marital contention and then one day I decided I didn’t hate doing them anymore. I’m slightly particular when it comes to loading the dishwasher (I can’t believe I’m one of those people!) and I have a system for hand washing dishes that makes it quick and mindless (utensils first, medium sized items next, save the worst for last). I’ve found in marriage that if you take the things you care the most about and stop worrying about fairness, things get much easier. And it leaves me with a clean kitchen, so that’s totally worth it.+https://jonesdesigncompany.com/get-clean-start-free-mrs-meyers-gift-set/
Isn’t that a helpful way to look at things? Stop worrying about fairness! Who ever said that things would be fair in this world/ your marriage / that family? If you want a clean, peaceful home, wash the dishes! That is the price. And I think, it is not the fool who pays it.
Disclaimer: my home is not always peaceful nor clean, but together we are hacking through the challenges. If you want to accuse me of being too traditional, you might be right. I think I am being pragmatical.
I hope my musings make sense. Love