Productivity with kids

"The virtue of productiveness is the recognition of the fact that productive work is the process by which man's mind sustains his life, the process that sets man free of the necessity to adjust himself to his background, as all animals do, and gives him the power to adjust his background to himself." - Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness
For many years, I built my obsessive drive to be super productive into my norm for living. I worked 40-50 hours a week at a job, then came home and worked another 20-40 hours on side projects. When all of the work was done, I pursued intensive play. Rarely was there a dull moment.

With kids, this all changed. I still have that drive while I'm at work, but that's only 40 or so hours a week. But at home, I now find myself watching more TV, playing fewer games, and wondering what I can do to keep busy. I have even caught myself using the kids as an excuse not to do work around the house that needs to be done.

It is easy to fall into these patterns because kids do require lots of attention and the minute I decide to do something, my kids are immediately demanding attention. I can be sitting in the same room with them - saying nothing, doing nothing - but immediately after the phone rings or immediately after I step out of the room to do some work, they are following me and demanding attention. Sometimes they want to help with work, which is great, except they usually do not know how to do the work. Teaching them makes every job go much slower. And even if I teach them, they still have troubles completing jobs to my standards. So often I'm left thinking, "let me just do it myself." And since I can't do it myself when they are around, it waits until they go to bed or they start entertaining themselves in another room.

There is a different way of viewing productivity with children, however. I see it and am trying redirect my energies to see it to fruition. I still can be super productive, but what I'm being productive with has changed. It is no longer just the immediate goal at hand. With kids, there are now two end products. The first is the project itself - sweeping the floors, cleaning the dishes, building a birdhouse, raking the leaves, designing a garden, planting a garden, weeding a garden, etc. The second end is my child's growth into an autonomous man (or woman as the case may be) - to help them learn the skills and virtues necessary to live happy and successful lives. This new perspective on productivity is more akin to being a coach or manager.

As with managers and coaches, being productive does not mean doing the technical work yourself. Being productive as a manager or coach means working as hard as you can to give others the capabilities and opportunities to excel with the task at hand. An effective manager does not do all the work himself. Instead he delegates. If an employee does not know what to do, it is the managers job to ensure the employee learns the skills necessary by either showing them himself or sending the employee to training. If an employee does not have the necessary tools to do a job, its the managers job to acquire the tools. The manager must also review the work of the employee to ensure the objectives were met with the predefined quality standards. Occasionally a manager may have to settle disputes among employees, but an effective manager does it in a way that enables the employees to settle their own disputes in the future. The goal should be positive discipline.

As a parent, being super productive is very similar. A parent must work hard to give their children the capabilities and opportunities to excel at the child's only job. That job is to learn and grow into a self-sufficient, rational, productive, and happy adult. Being productive for a parent means not letting the background control your life, such as letting the care of your children stop you from the care of your house. Nor letting the current skills of your children stop you from encouraging them to learn new skills. Rather, being productive means changing the background - helping your children to grow in skills, to accomplish projects, to become more autonomous, and to develop into the self-sufficient, rational, productive, happy adults that all children have the potential to be. With this new vision of productivity, it is much easier for me to be satisified with my productivity at home by focusing on coaching and managing, rather than focusing on traditional ideas of productivity that have defined my life.


  1. Excellent post! I have also found a similarity between parenting and being a manager. I managed people for 4 years before I became a parent. The challenges are similar--one of the goals of an effective manager is to remove obstacles, to make it easier for them to do their jobs. Very true for me as a parent, too.

    It's helpful to remember what my true goal is--the nurturing of young humans. Sometimes I get too caught up in this or that task left undone to remember that for kids, the process of learning and doing is productive, indeed. And my helping with that process is a way I'm productive, too!

  2. Jenn:
    "the process of learning and doing is productive, indeed."
    It sure is. One has to remember that inside each little head is an intelligent mind looking to you for all its guidance. When you teach a child what, how and why of things, you are producing a mind capable of surving on its own. You have produced a wholly integrated human being. That is quite an accomplishment.

  3. I find this aspect of parenting to be challenging as well. I like the analogy to management. I'll try to keep that in mind when I feel like, "what in the world did I do all day?"

    I think I have a book lying around called Peanut Butter and Jelly Managment, but I can't remember if it is about parenting or management.

  4. Thank you for all your kind comments.

    Jenn: Absolutely, its the process of parenting, if done with the goal of helping your children become adults, that is productive.

    Mike: Parenting successfully is an accomplishment.

    Amy: I'd like to read that book...

  5. I agree completely! I've often remarked to my wife how much being a manager overlaps with being a father.