Modern 'Productivity Culture' Is Dictating How We Deal With The Pandemic

by Nikkya Hargrove
Originally Published: 
Modern ‘Productivity Culture’ Is Dictating How We Deal With The Pandemic: Mother and son studying wi...
Scary Mommy and FG Trade/Getty

In my office, I am known as the task-manager, the one to check off the boxes, the one who gets things done. I enjoy the process of planning a project and seeing it through to the end. When the pandemic hit, that’s how I took on managing my household with post-its everywhere. On my fridge, next to this year’s class photos from our three kids’ schools, were grocery shopping lists for the week, a calendar of bills which needed paying for the month, a list of items we could and could not compost — a project I decided to incorporate into our newly-adopted green living lifestyle.

In traditional ambitious form, I also decided to keep our four-year-old twins in their full-year/full-day preschool program. I told myself it was to “prepare for kindergarten,” but now I know, I kept them in this program because I didn’t want them to not try to be the best preschool students they could be — even during a pandemic. I didn’t want them to fall into the slump of being at home for months on end, downing Trader Joe’s strawberry cereal bars and gallons of chocolate milk while watching another episode of Doc McStuffins or Vampirina. Even more, I did not want them to perceive me to be at their beck and call. I am the “get shit done” parent in our household and my kids, I hope, are learning to be productive little humans, a life lesson I am sure they will carry with them forever.

There are days I wonder if I am pushing them too hard. I wonder if my own ingrained (sometimes unrealistic) “you can do anything you set your mind to” approach is a bit much for them right now. Maybe it is even a bit much for me these days, too. I push them because I don’t want them to get lazy or have their minds to turn to mush before they enter the doors of their school (if they enter this September) for kindergarten. I make them go outside and play with their two little friends who live next door, or even push them outside if only to water the grass.

Darby S/Reshot

I have this desire to make everything for them into a life lesson: let’s create a chore chart (since we are home for the next few months); let’s create an allowance system (since we are home for the next few months); let’s have family dinners at the dinner table each night (since we are home for the next few months) — all of these things not only giving us more time together as a family but also teaching them something. For me, this is my modern-day productivity system — giving my kids (and myself) enough to keep us busy and our minds off the unknown of what our future holds within the clenches of COVID-19.

For me, it also comes down to creating more of the “knowns” in a time when so much is “unknown.” More or less, we know what a four-year-old will do with a quarter they are supposed to put into their piggy bank — maybe they will save it, or maybe they will lose it before it even makes it to their piggy bank. We more or less know the outcome of what happens when we let our kids watch television all day long — they become more irritable and perhaps couch potatoes as adults. Right now, I will take that risk; I need the television to get through my meetings each day. And, I must attend my meetings because I need my job to help support our family.

What I don’t know, and perhaps part of me is scared to find out: what happens if I don’t have them finish the commitment I signed them up for — their preschool program? Of course, it’s all being done remotely, and I am their stand-in teacher (save for the daily Zoom sessions set up by their three classroom teachers). I am their in-real-life, at-home teacher. Not only that, but I’m teaching them other life lessons that extend far beyond academics (like how to properly wipe their butts).

When all is said and done, on top of everything else, we are juggling the pseudo-camp schedule, the emotions associated with not going to school, the anxiety of needing to put on a mask every time they go out in public, and the uncertainty of the times. Our kids have enough on their plates. If we don’t find a summer camp to enroll them into, or a math tutor to educate them so they don’t fall behind, or they don’t get to finish an intended project — it is okay. They will not fall behind an entire year of school. They will not suffer and end up in psychotherapy their entire lives (though it’s okay if they do) just because we didn’t schedule them for every available summer activity we could. We are all in this together, they will not be left behind, and I have to remember that.

If I fail or they fail, does it matter? We are all living through a pandemic. All we can truly hope is to do our best, and hope that the pandemic does not get the best of us.

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