Last year I had the privilege of being awarded a research grant by the British Academy to conduct research on graduate stay-at-home mothers in Singapore. It was an interesting topic of study as mothers in Singapore are expected to work. Many leave their two-month-old infants to the care of foreign maids hardly out of their teenage years to return to full-time work.
Graduate mothers, especially, are expected to return to work full-time after the 'investment' by the country in their university education. To quit work altogether to become a stay-at-home mother is very much counter-cultural.
One of the most interesting interviews I conducted was with a woman engineer, a mother of three young children. As with every other interviewee she mentioned that one of the skills she honed as a stay-at-home mother is to multi-task.
"I am talking to my friend on the phone while watching my children play, and in my head I am planning tonight's dinner."
Why can't men multi-task? She brought in her Christian perspective.
"What was Adam made of? Dust! A bit of rubbish! But Eve was made from the rib of Adam. You start with a different material, you'll get a different product." She should know. She's an engineer by training.
Take my husband, for example. Engineer by training as well (but no more practising). I've done well to train him not to stand around with arms folded as the kettle is boiling.
"Don't do nothing when you can do something! Empty the dishwasher while you wait for the water to boil. Or tidy up." Waiting for the kettle to boil is one task. To do something else while waiting ... O! that's too much hard work!
When we have a pile of clothes to fold -- and I do it in front of the TV -- and he purports to help, his hands are often frozen mid-air. When something exciting happens on TV, his hands stop. No, men can't cope with something exciting happening on TV and folding clothes at the same time.
Ah, have you noticed what they are like in a car?
We joke about women drivers. But it's true, some women can't reverse their car. My excuse is that I am so small I can't see where the car ends. Apart from the driver's side of the bonnet, I have no idea where the other extremities of the car are.
I always fear that I cannot anticipate well enough what other drivers would do due to my limited field of vision. That is why women love 4x4's. Seated higher up then normal motorists, they can see further afield. They might still not be able to reverse.
I used to be given lifts by a friend who didn't dare raise her hand to say 'thank you' to a driver who had given way to her. She didn't dare take her hand off the steering.
But men -- those creatures who cannot fold clothes while watching TV -- put them behind the steering wheel and they can:
- curse and swear,
- describe how badly the driver who had just overtaken him on the motorway had been driving while behind him,
- notice attractively (or strangely) attired women and/or women with 'jelly on a plate' bouncing in the opposite direction, and continue to watch them in the rear view or wing mirror,
- change radio stations, adjust volume of sound,
- open various compartments and cubby holes and either deposit or retrieve items from these
while driving and without swerving one tiny bit.
Who says men can't multi-task?
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