Productivity is a Four Letter Word


Productivity. I hate that word. It has been my enemy since the day I brought my new baby home.

We haven’t always had a tortured relationship. In my pre-child life, to do lists were my favorite. Every morning, I would list all of the things I wanted to get done that day, complete with sub-lists within each project.

Menial tasks like “shower,” “eat,” etc. were not worthy of the list. Each item I crossed off felt like a victory; each list I completed made me feel like my day had been a success. “Almost done” or “I tried” didn’t count.

I think every woman I know has adopted a method for measuring herself as she has moved from childhood into adulthood. The most well adjusted among us use their measure as a type of growth chart – am I growing?

Some use it to measure themselves against “the competition” (whoever that is). Still others use it as a “must be this tall to ride” – if you don’t measure up, you are deficient somehow. I fell somewhere between the latter two categories. My to do lists made me feel safe in the knowledge that I was enough, or at least that I was nearly enough. I was certainly “busy.”

Unknowingly, I reinforced to myself daily that my worthiness of love and admiration was tied to the strikethroughs on my list. I was only as good as my accomplishments.

Then suddenly, I had a baby, no job placing demands on my time, and my to do lists were reduced to essentials. More often than not, they were not even half done. Some days, I didn’t cross anything off the list. I felt like a failure. How could showering (which takes, what, like 15 min?) be an insurmountable task on my to do list? I can’t tell you how many times I googled “getting things done with a baby.” How had I never heard that getting things done with a baby was this hard?  I questioned my worth as a person and as a partner to my husband.

I tried making “have done” lists at the end of each day, but that didn’t quiet the voice in my head that said I was falling short of the mark. Each time my husband asked me how my day was and to tell him about it, I felt ashamed by all I hadn’t done. Busy, it seemed, had become my comfort object, shielding me from nagging questions of self worth. Now I was “busy” with only one task: nurturing my baby.




It was this thought that made me reassess: if my time was spent in accordance with my priorities during this season of my life, how could that be inadequate?

If “all” I did each day was try to nurture my baby well, tend to his comfort and happiness, and engage his little body and mind, how could that not be enough to be proud of?

Now, when I am feeling down about how the day has gotten away from me, I try to remind myself of the three things on my to do list that matter most to me these days:

1) care for the people who matter most to me to the best of my ability;

2) try to find joy in even the most frustrating day, knowing the days are long but the years are short; and

3) show myself the forgiveness and grace I show my toddler.

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Like most mothers, Kate is many things. To name a few: Mama to Jack; Wife to Matt; Encinitas dweller, beach frequenter and future "Grom Mom"; coffee connoisseur, wine aficionado and foodie; Farmers' Market fanatic; perpetual explorer and lover of life. Kate believes that motherhood is both exquisitely beautiful and unbelievably hard sometimes. She hopes that her posts can spark inspiration to explore, share encouragement, and help San Diego moms make the most of living in "America's Finest City." You can find more of Kate's thoughts and experiences at


  1. Love this! Thank you for sharing! As a mom of older kids, I admit, it gets easier to find time for other things but not much!! You are already doing so much!! Xoxo

    • Thank you, Rachel. Yes – give yourself as much grace as you can muster. EVERYTHING is different (and in most ways, more wonderful) after baby. Sending you lots of encouraging vibes for your delivery and after!:)

  2. I can really appreciate this! I never feel like I’m getting enough done but everyone is fed and bathed and happy! So that’s enough for now. 🙂

  3. Hi Kate, add to your list an amazing interpreter of putting life into words we can all relate to. Even as I enter another phase of life far away from the days of mothering an infant. I find I have a similar situation. Trying to find where I fit in not working as fully as I once did. Wanting to be a worthy contributor but more limited physically now in some ways. Searching for that thing that will be the right fit. So I take your words today and will apply them and remember we don’t always have seasons where we are super stars. Or maybe we are and need to look at what we consider mundane as true accomplishments if done with grace and gratefulness. YOU INSPIRE ME. Now that’s an achievement!!!!

    • I’m so glad it found you today 🙂 I love it when you hear just what you needed to at the right moment – makes life feel a little magical!

  4. “Try to find joy in even the most frustrating day”… Yes! Love this and believe this is a very big deal for healthy minds and raising healthy minds. Love this post ♡


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