Greater Efficiency ≠ Greater Self-Worth

This girl loves schedules. In college, I used an Excel spreadsheet to box out classes, workouts, prayer, fellowship, study time, etc. It put order to my day, to my priorities. I thrive when I live order.

I used to never, absolutely never, go a week when I didn’t work out at least six days. Some days that meant a quick elliptical and shower between classes and other days it meant running in the torrential rain, but I found a way to fit it in because taking care of myself helped me be in a better place.


When I had kids, it didn’t take me long to figure out that living order had to become more of a goal than a schedule. Being frazzled and running late has become the new norm. And that’s tough for my Excel-loving self to swallow. Needless to say, working out six days a week is long gone.

Just this morning, I woke up early because our conditioner bottle fell, oddly enough, and got prayer time in before I needed to wake the girls for school. I was pumped that it just may turn into an ordered day. But then one of the girls didn’t like the outfit we had set out, the other screamed bloody murder while I brushed her hair, we forgot to lay out socks and found the only clean pair in the washer, and we had to move the baby’s car seat from their dad’s car to mine. We were late.

In a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, they found, “In every single time period, women with children are producing more than their peers with none.”

For the love. That’s garbage. Children are beautiful, fun, amazing all-around little diaper fillers, but an efficiency boost?! No, no, no; at least not in my house.

I feel like God sometimes rocks the boat of order in our lives to allow or challenge us to step outside ourselves and our comfort zone.

Sure, in a perfect world the girls would go to bed at the same time each night, nap simultaneously each day, take their plates to the sink, wipe their own butts, and not act like I am killing a puppy when I brush their hair. In a perfect world, my productivity would skyrocket. But life isn’t perfect. And there’s beauty in that. Beauty in the broken, messiness of life. Beauty in the fact that God uses the chaos, the incessant interruptions of raising kiddos, to ask me to learn to roll with it and die to my schedule a bit.

I know it’s a chapter, I know they won’t want me to scratch their backs and read them bedtime stories forever. I know that one day I will be missing all the noise, but as for now give me the noise canceling headphones, pretty please. One thing I am learning as a get deeper into this parenting gig is that we have to adjust our standards based on the chapter we’re at right now.

We have to adjust our standards of order, of efficiency, to match our current state of life and give ourselves grace if we’re not as “put together” as we were in an earlier chapter.

I heard a great podcast by Michelle Cushatt and Kathi Lipp on ‘Productivity’. It said we should manage our time based on the STEM (space, time, energy, money) that we have right now. That will look different than what it did when we were younger. It will look different than what it will when the kids are out of the house. No matter what season we’re in, though, we have an abundance of one of these; our efficiency standards should ebb and flow accordingly. Taking an honest inventory of our abundance, and lack of, STEM allows us to reassess where we are at right now.

Space What’s that? Right now, with three kids under six, it’s lacking. Still, there are ways to protect it and get my quiet time like an uninterrupted workout and shower at the gym while the kids are in childcare. God bless you, YMCA.

Time This looks like that 30-minute window when the younger two girls at home, pretty pretty please, are napping simultaneously.

Energy This looks like a lot of caffeine after early morning school wakeups. My energy peak is in the morning while the older two are at school and I try to protect that window using any means possible and save all of the busy tasks – chopping, cleaning, laundry, etc. – for when they’re all home.

Money We are blessed in that I am able to get help right now with a sitter once a week and that is my day to do appointments, run errands, and get writing in.

So often I beat myself up at the end of the day, week, or year when I feel like I’m nowhere near as efficient as I used to be like I’m trying to chase down my old fit self and just be her again. That is unrealistic. It is damaging.

When we measure our efficiency against who we used to be and come up short, it is robbing our joy.

For my college thesis, I put together a business proposal for a local water filtration company. I called competitors throughout the country to compare best practices. I researched different styles of filtration systems that were more efficient, economical, or filtered out more chemicals. I delegated other parts of the paper to my teammates and compiled them into the thesis. The end product was 16 pages of well-researched material that we had efficiently put together that the company was very thankful for.

Why was that writing project so much easier, more seamless, than putting this website and blog posts together? Why was it so much more efficient?

Oh, yeah. Because my full-time job right now is not being a student. My full-time job is raising these girls to know how much they are loved, to know where their worth comes from. And yes, the day-to-day work of wiping butts and mediating toy flights isn’t glamorous. But the end result? The end result will be far greater than a good grade on a thesis.

Later in that same study, they alluded to the other side of parenting and stated that “a mother of three children has, on average, a research record reflecting a loss of four years of research output by the time all of her children have reached their teens.”

That sounds a bit little more like it.

I used to have a clean house, but now its covered with toys and crumbs.

I used to have a thin waistline, but now it’s got the baby love handles.

I used to make a home cooked meal most nights, but now frozen meals have become my culinary bestie.

Lay that business down. We must redefine our standards to meet where we are at right now. We must stop trying to live up to who we used to be.

I don’t need more time, I just need to find enough time for what matters. I must stop wasting our mornings, my kid’s childhoods with ignorant hurry and obsessive, unmet to-do lists.

I need to give myself grace to be interrupted,  grace to be OK if my life is in 2nd gear right now. Someday I’ll have more space, more time, more energy. Someday my girls will learn to get ready by themselves, drive to school and practice, not make bedtime such a battle.

But today? Today they need me. Today I am going to try to lay down my unrealistic efficiency standards of what once was and enjoy that every day my Kindergartener brings me home a drawing of us saying, “I love you.”

At least until they’re teenagers. Then all bets are off.

What are some ways that you show yourself mercy, grace, when you start comparing to what you and your life used to be?

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6 thoughts on “Greater Efficiency ≠ Greater Self-Worth

  1. Kurt Poole says:

    Wonderful piece! I think you’re on to something. What a blessing. And since I’m usually the stay at home “guy”, this resonates. I’m sure it will with others as well. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help get your words out.

  2. Justine says:

    Love this! It is a struggle. I hire people to clean my house when I can’t take it anymore and relegate to the cartoon babysitter on Saturday mornings to give myself the much needed cooking time that I love and need to maintain my balance. We also only do 1 extra activity at a time. Right now it’s swimming lessons, perhaps dance in the spring.

    • Mountains Unmoved says:

      Love all of these ideas! I think it’s important to regularly reassess which areas I need to ask for help (cleaning, babysitting, etc.), cut (kids activities, commitments) or add (mom’s groups, workouts) to be my best self. It regularly changes as school schedules, kid’s ages, and other commitments/jobs change, but when I don’t I quickly slide into stressed/frazzled/hot mess mode. No one wants that.

  3. Melissa says:

    That race in Kansas City was so much fun! On that note, four babies later, I am running much slower than I did back then. But, I have to remind myself that I’ve brought four human beings (4 eternal souls) into the world which is much more important, and try not to be too hard on myself. I also really like my to-do lists and being productive, so it’s a struggle for me to let go of that. I think it helps me to read things, like this blog post, which remind me that what I am doing now is so very important. I need to be constantly reminded of that in order to fully embrace my vocation as a stay-at-home mom and be present and attentive to my kids when all I want to do is get things done.

    I love your blog! I’m looking forward to following along. God Bless!

    • Mountains Unmoved says:

      So much fun! I loved all of our chats while we trained for that race! To-do lists are so hard because, on one hand, they provide a necessary structure to doing family life well but on the other hand they can become a chain that keeps us from, as you said, being present and attentive and even enjoying our family. What helps me is really thinking about what makes me feel content at the end of the day and if it’s checking off the list rather than love, the list has to go in the trash.

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