Why You Can't Get Anything Done?

by Melissa Stanton

Have you ever asked yourself, "Do I Have ADHD?" It's a thought that crosses the minds of many stay-at-home moms. Why? Because they think about the number of chores they need to do but don't get to, or the projects they start but don't finish, or the tasks they actually do but don't do well.

"I don't have a job. I'm home all day," you may tell yourself. As such, you think you should be able to complete a simple task like sorting through the bags of hand-me-downs your neighbor dropped off. But you can't get to it. Or you actually do start working through the clothes, but by day's end your bedroom is filled with piles of clothing, which your kids then find and jump in. Since you now have to start all over again, you herd the clothes into a large pile for dealing with on another day.

When your husband sees the mess and asks, "Why did you start sorting the clothes if you weren't going to finish it?" or "What's so hard about sorting clothes?" you either get really angry or you can't answer, because you can't think of a good reason why you didn't finish the job. You hadn't left the house all day, except to drive the three-year-old to and from preschool, and later to meet your kindergartner at the bus stop. You haven't even made dinner, because you've been so busy sorting the clothes. What happened?

What happened is that instead of accomplishing a big task, you've performed dozens of tiny, uninspiring, seemingly meaningless tasks and chores and errands, each of which took a little bit of time but, when added together, consumed the entire day.

For instance, imagine you're at your computer, trying to pay bills online while your toddler is entertaining herself nearby with toys. About five minutes into the banking your child approaches you with a runny nose:

  • You get up from your chair to get a tissue.
  • You return to your child and wipe her nose.
  • You see that your child's shirt is messy, as are your fingers.
  • You remove the child's shirt.
  • You go to the kitchen sink to wash your hands.
  • The sink has dishes in it, so you rinse the dishes to put them in the dishwasher.
  • But the dishwasher is full of clean dishes. So you empty the dishwasher and then fill it with dishes from the sink.
  • You tell your child to play with her toys while you go upstairs and get her another shirt.
  • On the way, you toss the shirt into the laundry room.
  • Passing the bathroom, you realize you actually need to use the bathroom. You do, and you use up the toilet paper.
  • You go to the hall closet and get more toilet paper.
  • You return to the bathroom to replace the roll.
  • The bathroom trash is full, so you grab the bag and replace it with another.
  • You go to your child's room to find a new shirt.
  • While there, you see that a sippy cup, full of milk, is in her bed, and that she's left a wet overnight diaper on the floor.
  • You put the diaper in the trash bag you're carrying. (Wow, that was efficient!)
  • You make your daughter's bed and gather the sippy cup.
  • On the way back downstairs you pass the laundry room and realize you should do a load of wash.
  • You open the washing machine to discover there's a wet load inside.
  • You start to put those wet clothes into the dryer but the dryer is full.
  • You pull the clean clothes out of the dryer and put them in a basket.
  • You put the wet clothes in the dryer.
  • You put the dirty clothes in the washing machine and start a wash.
  • Since you don't have time now to sort the clean clothes, you leave the basket of clean laundry on top of the dryer.
  • Back in the kitchen, you put the sippy cup into the dishwasher.
  • You try to shove the bathroom trash into the kitchen garbage but the pail is full.
  • You take the all the trash to the garbage cans in the garage.
  • You come back into the house and put another bag in the kitchen trash container.
  • You find your child.
  • Her nose is running again, she has gotten into the bills and papers you were working with. She needs a diaper change and it's lunchtime.

How much time did it take to wipe that child's nose? Fifteen minutes? Twenty minutes? A half hour? Imagine variations on this scenario playing out dozens of times a day. Imagine that same scene, except with additional offspring in the house. You're not incompetent, and you don't have ADHD. You have children!

Melissa Stanton is the author of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide: Field-tested strategies for staying smart, sane, and connected while caring for your kids (Seal Press/Perseus Books). Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mother of three (including twins), she was a senior editor at LIFE and People magazines. Visit with Melissa, and learn more about her book, at Real Life: Support for Moms. Become her Facebook friend via The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide fan page.

Copyright © Melissa Stanton. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.