I’ve never liked babies. Too sticky. But now that I have one, I can’t get enough of the little guys, especially mine. It’s true what they say, though, parenting teaches you a lot about yourself.
As my wife and I anticipated the arrival of our first child, I remember being apprehensive over whether I would like him or not. I’m a driven person by nature. I like to always be working on some kind of project. So, I was concerned that I might be more interested in my work than my son. But when Watson finally arrived those concerns swiftly departed only to be replaced by a full and satisfying parental affection. And what’s been interesting to see is how my perspective on work and personal productivity has shifted slightly in this new phase of life.
The Lord has shown me, through the process of adapting to fatherhood, some areas in which my thinking about work, people, and success needed to change. Here are three things having a child has taught me about personal productivity.
Work is Part of Life, Not the Point of Life
There is nothing wrong with work itself. Work is a good thing. Work was made by God and it was pronounced “very good” and this was before sin ever entered the picture. God also commands us to work. He is very much anti-laziness. So much so that he instructs church leaders that if a man in their assembly isn’t willing to work then he shouldn’t eat either. (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
Biblically and practically work is an important part of life. But work is not all there is to life.
Having a kid is like unlocking a new world in a video game. You thought you knew the lay of the land, but suddenly there are entirely new vistas open to you. When you become a parent this whole range of experiences and emotions which had previously been dormant awaken in vibrant colors. It’s a little alarming, frankly.
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After the birth of our son, I remembered how when some of my friends had kids how they made dramatic life changes soon afterward. Some of them finally went on that diet, others sought out new jobs to better provide for the family, and many just became more serious people overall.
I get it now.
Having a child is like having a grenade lobbed into your stack of neatly ordered priorities. It reshuffles the deck. It changes everything.
Without warning, many things that before had seemed so important to me were now being pushed down the page of priorities (and some were bumped completely off the page). And for someone like me who has always viewed my work as more than a way to make money, but part and parcel of my mission on earth, this forced reclassification of priorities was jarring.
Having a child showed me that my work is an important part of life, but it is not the point of life. And that truth was demonstrated to me in very practical ways.
People Are More Important Than Projects
One of the difficulties with babies is that they are not respecters of your time. This may sound shocking, but at times Watson acts as if the world revolves around him. He is incredibly impatient, especially when it comes to food and sleep. When he’s screaming his demands, I get the impression that he doesn’t care at all if I’m in the middle of a project.
I really enjoy running this blog and podcast. It’s not my full-time job, it’s just a ministry that I’ve undertaken on the side. But it’s a lot of work, and my time to work on it is very limited. So, I have my list of what I need to get done each morning and evening to continue to put out new posts and episodes each week. Some days it seems like Watson doesn’t care at all about that I complete my list of tasks.
But something occurred to me one recent morning at about 5:00 a.m. as I was pacing around the kitchen comforting my crying son, laptop sitting open and untyped upon. I realized that those precious moments with my son were of far greater importance than my precious task list. This little person was more important than my project. Cuddling with that weeping booger factory was worth more than all the to-do lists in the world.
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And this realization pointed to a more general truth as well. People are more important than projects. As a listener to the podcast recently pointed out to me, to love our neighbor well we need to be interruptible. It’s good to have plans, but we need to take the ministry opportunities which providence brings our way, even if it sidetracks our perfect plan. Even if it ruins our productivity for the day. For, “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9). Because to succeed in life, we need to be more than just productive people.
Success Is Defined by How We Steward All Areas of Life
The last thing having a child taught me about personal productivity is that I need to have a better definition of “success.” Ticking off that last item on my to-do list or completing a long project feels great! And those are forms of success. But if our definition of success only relates to how we view our work, then we are actually failing not succeeding.
Christian productivity isn’t just about being more efficient at work. It’s a holistic approach to life. To put it more biblically, it’s about stewarding your life—all of your life—to the Glory of God. So, activities, like spending time with my son or spending time on my work, are not in competition with one another. Interruptions which come from family or other responsibilities are not derailing us from success, they are part of the equation which adds up to a lifetime of success. Why?
Because success for the Christian is defined by faithfulness in everything the Lord has given us stewardship over. So, if I were to neglect my son for my work, I would not be being more productive. I would actually be failing to be productive. You would not reward an employee who excelled at one aspect of his job but simultaneously was wholly negligent in another. Both tasks are in the job description, that employee doesn’t get to pick and choose which duties he will or won’t do. It’s all part of the job. It’s the same for us. All of our duties before the Lord are requirements. We cannot neglect some areas of stewardship in favor of others and call that success. This is the workaholic’s folly, to forget to steward his family, even while he excels in the workplace.
Having a child has taught me that success is defined by being faithful in all of the areas the Lord has entrusted me to steward. I must be a faithful worker, a faithful father, a faithful spouse, a faithful churchman, and on and on down the list. Because my Lord has entrusted the stewardship of these things to me, and I, therefore, want to succeed in all of them. I want to hear “well done good and faithful servant.”
Having a child has already been a wild ride, and I can’t wait to see what the Lord has for us next. Already through this sweet kid, God has revealed areas I need to grow in, and He has taught me these valuable lessons about personal productivity and living a life that is pleasing to Him.
I’d love to hear from you, parents. How has having kids reshaped your priorities?