Why do I find it so hard to concentrate? Is this something that happens to women of a certain age or is it just me? I just can't seem to do it for more than about 15 minutes at a time without allowing myself to become distracted by something more pressing or interesting or both.
I know exactly when I lost my ability to focus. You need a wide and varied set of life skills to be able to look after young children but keeping your attention on one thing for longer than ten minutes at a time is not one of them. Everything you do is in short, manageable bursts and you are rarely called upon to concentrate on just one thing.
When my life was my own, I had no problem keeping on task. Years of study followed by life at a desk meant that I thought nothing of sitting still for two or three hours at a time and working on the same thing. But now? I can't even sit still for a whole episode of "Lewis" and it's my favourite.
I don't think it's all entirely my fault. Since I sat down to write this I have had seven emails, a text message, someone at the door, the washing machine beeping to tell me that it's finished its cycle and I have checked the time four times to make sure that I'm not late for school. How can I ever hope to concentrate with all that going on?
But I have had focusing skills and lost them. I worry for my children who may never develop them at all. I went upstairs yesterday to check on my eldest. She was sitting at her desk doing her homework. Her ipod was playing something loud (but to be fair I studied with music on too), her phone vibrated constantly with texts and calls and she was listening to Coronation Street on iplayer. If she was allowed I'm sure she would have had facebook or msn going as well. How can she concentrate effectively with all that going on around her? She says she can and her school report seems to confirm this but I can't believe it. I suppose she knows no different. In her short life, communication has always been personal to her and instantaneous, something that I never had to factor into my study time.
However, my powers of concentration, meagre though they are, have been superseded by skills that I have a greater need for. I can tell you where anything that you might need can be found in the house. I know where each of my four children has to be at any given moment, what they need to have with them and how they will get both there and back. I can calculate without opening the fridge how many meals I can conjure up before I need to restock. And I can hold an intelligent conversation with two children at the same time without either feeling like I'm not listening. I have no problem focusing. It's focusing on one thing at a time that's the killer!
So what can I do? I need to concentrate on concentrating. I need to be more disciplined and not allow myself to be distracted by all that is going on around me. I need to work on staying on task without allowing my mind to drift on to what I need to be doing next. I need more coffee. Would you like some?