I Was Addicted To Productivity (Then I Had a Baby)


Hi, my name is Vanessa. I’m a mother of three. And I have a productivity addiction.

Even though it was nearly twelve years ago, I can remember my first day home alone with my oldest baby so clearly. My husband had gone back to work. My mom had started her 700-mile drive home. All the visitors with their casseroles and diaper cakes had returned to their regular lives. And there I was in my house. Alone. With a newborn.

Since I wasn’t going back to work right away, I had these dreamy plans of organizing every closet and cupboard, decorating my little home just so, and preparing Food Network-worthy meals on weeknights.

I Was Addicted To ProductivityLittle did I know I’d be breastfeeding for twelve hours a day and cleaning up bodily fluid during the remaining hours. Where was this info in What to Expect When You’re Expecting?

When my husband arrived home that evening and innocently asked about my day, I broke down in tears and replied through sobs, “I got the mail. That’s it. All I did today was get the mail.”

So being the thoughtful guy he is, he ordered pizza. Then he made me a spreadsheet. Hello, a gift from heaven! Something familiar during the most foreign of times! On my spreadsheet, I scratched a hash mark to indicate every diaper change and feeding. Then at the end of the day, I could look down at that piece of paper and see my accomplishments.

You see, I was addicted to productivity. I had been trained like a circus monkey to produce.

Throughout my years as a student, I completed math homework and research papers and science projects. Subsequently, I was rewarded with A’s. During my time working outside the home, I produced reports and lesson plans and presentations. Then I was rewarded with a paycheck. I delivered a product and collected compensation. But without that exchange, it felt as though I was accomplishing nothing.

Of course, it didn’t take long to figure out that my spreadsheet couldn’t measure cuddle time or sweet baby smiles. I had to learn that people always trump product.

Motherhood, like all relationships, isn’t measurable.

If we try to find fulfillment in a job well done at the work of mothering, we’ll drown in a never-ending cycle. The bellies will always be empty again. The diapers will always be full again. There will always be one more boo boo to kiss and one more hurt feeling to soothe. And just when you think you got a handle on a childhood phase, another challenge arises.

And a child is most certainly not a product.

If we hinge our own contentment on our children reciprocating our feelings or on their behavior, we will place an unbearable burden on our kids. Our darling little offspring cannot live up to that kind of pressure. Every child will test the boundaries or act out in some way. Let’s not lose ourselves when those things happen because we have based our own self-worth on our little ones.

Rather, we have to find our reward in the act of loving. Finding our joy in the joy of another is the ultimate return for a mother.

I wish I could tell you twelve years of mothering have cured me completely of my productivity addiction, but I can’t. I can tell you that I’ve grown in this area and that the realization of the problem is half the battle.

Have you struggled with a productivity addiction too? How do you find your joy in the loving of your children? 

Originally published July 2016.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.