Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Redefining Productivity

Three and a half years ago my life was forever changed. Now, all parents say that the advent of parenthood is an adjustment or something you're never actually ready for. For me, the word adjustment is an understatement. The things I valued most in life seemed to come under direct attack from this tiny little helpless person. Independence, productivity, personal space and comfort. Sleep and regular food consumption, for that matter. I sometimes think of those first few months of my son's life as my own personal dark ages. Don't get me wrong. I love my child and am eternally grateful for him. But in those first few months, when I had a newborn that wouldn't nurse, barely slept and screamed if he was ever put down, night and day, I did not generally respond favorably to those people in my life who would look at my child and say "Isn't he just the sweetest little miracle?" Honestly, I loved him dearly but what I thought when I looked at him was "holy crap, this is a freakin' bucketload of work and if I don't sleep soon I'll probably either drive my car off the road or scream at one of my students who complains of being tired." Oh wait, I did do that last one. Multiple times.

Needless to say, parenthood has been unexpected. I've learned that I'm not really a baby person. I'm ok with this- I guess not all people can naturally be good with babies. I love my 3 year old. I love being able to talk and race and play baseball. I love singing and dancing. I love that he is a human being who can, generally, be reasoned with. The first 6 months of his life were really hard. I felt like all I could do was survive- feed him, keep him clean and dry and not screaming- and then scrape by in the rest of my life. Staff life suffered, personal relationships suffered, and I beat myself up over it.

Something my husband has said over and over to me in the past few years is that there has to be a redefinition of success. I've tried over and over to continue to live my life at the same speed, with the same extracurricular commitments since becoming a mom. Most of that has ended in what feels like either mediocrity or failure. I think this is because I've tried to measure my success with the same parameters of my pre-mom days. So those days when all I have done is lain on the couch with a sick child on my chest, changed diapers and then paced the halls at night have been the hardest. What did I accomplish? What do I have to show for it, right? And, for goodness sake, what about my time with God? Where the heck do "quiet times" fit in when your kid gets up at 5:30 and then demands attention all day long until you hit the point when he's finally asleep and all you literally have energy for is crawling into your bed? Sometimes without your teeth brushed.

So, redefinition is critical. Not just my husband but other wise people have helped me to think through this. Helped me to think through having grace towards myself in a new season of life. To know that it's ok if my prayer life only consists of prayers said while pushing a kid in a stroller or that worship music in the car is my new lifeline for personal devotions. That feeding and clothing and loving a child is beyond productive and it doesn't matter if I've written a darn thing or even washed the family's clothes.

Occasionally, now that my son is three, I do end up with these long stretches of time where he's being unexpectedly independent. I can get things done on the computer, do laundry, even attempt to keep the house clean in my own pathetically un-domestic way. And I think back and wonder what the heck I did with all my free time. Because now when it comes, it's like a frantic race to see how much I can possibly accomplish before I hear the words "Mommy, will you play with me?" again. And I am able to "produce" exponentially more than I think I ever did before in very short snatches of time. In those moments, I have to fight to not redefine my day by what I can show for it. I'm a slow learner when it comes to grace, so I'm thankful that God continues to put people in my path who help remind me that I'm where I should be and doing what I should do.

So, when I wake up each morning, my prayer and hope is not that I accomplish a lot that day, but that whatever I do, I do it as unto the Lord. Potty training, writing talks for large groups, cooking dinner, praying with a friend over the phone. Even cleaning up dog vomit. Because this is the day that the Lord has made and I will choose to rejoice, be glad in it and let God continue to redefine how I measure success.


  1. I don't really have anything to add to that excellent post, but I couldn't let it go by without you knowing that someone out there was saying, "Amen!"

  2. I am so appreciative of your posts and your openess. It is so good to have an honest sense of parenthood rather that setting myself up for the fairytails so many share. Please keep it up!