The Parenting Productivity Paradox

We are now in our second month of Stay Home Stay Safe and the pressure to be productive is circulating. We are given examples throughout history of greatness that has arisen out of previous times of quarantine from Isaac Newton discovering calculus to Shakespeare writing King Lear. These can be inspirational or completely defeating and everything in between.

I am confident that many great ideas and lots of creativity will emerge from this time period of being forced to figure out how to do things differently. Business models will be flipped, products re-invented, music, art, and books will be created.

AND some people’s productivity might be a little less noticeable.

In Buddhism, the term “householder” essentially means people who are living regular lives with families and jobs outside of a monastery. Their experience of practice and study will look different than their monastic counterparts. The understanding is that they can practice what they are learning about Buddhism in their families, at work, in the world. They have a different experience than the monks who do not spend their lives in jobs and marriages and therefore a different way of learning and integrating. Both groups learn from each other and each contributes to the world in different ways.

I remember being at a Buddhist retreat years ago with my (then) very small children in tow. The childcare pickup time was about 30 minutes before the main talk ended, meaning we were missing 30 minutes of the talk every day. A few days in one of the other moms lamented to me that we were not getting the full experience. I responded that the others were not getting our experience either.

Productivity while parenting may mean cooking creative meals with your kids every night. It may mean finding thought-provoking dinner conversation. Perhaps it means playing board games with your launched young adult child who you never thought you’d have in the house again. It could mean finding a new recipe for play dough. Not everyone in a society can be a monk and not everyone can spend their time inventing calculus, that does not mean us householders aren’t productive and aren’t having our own experiences.

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