Clock Time

by | Jul 1, 2023 | Activism, Matrescence, Motherhood, Public Policy

This post explores how time pressure can lead to the deprivation of what we most want and need to make a meaningful life.

An unedited audio version of the post, read by Sarah. Bonus dogs barking in the background.

Whether we realise it or not, how we spend our time and energy reflects our values and whether we have self-determination. I’m increasingly aware my approach in the minutes and hours is ultimately how my days and years will be defined. Time is our most precious currency; unlike money, its potential is not infinite.

I glance to my right and observe the pattern decorating his left hand. Those hands are rarely idle, but today he’s agreed to pause. In this moment, I am reminded of past afternoons spent with another friend whose hands are embellished with the colours of mulberries and plums. Their markings resemble nectar dripping from ripe fruit broken open in the summer sun. These two have using their hands to quieten busy minds in common. They’re makers, he will notice the knots in the wood, and she will see the shapes in the drawing. In their own ways, each has helped me see things in a new light.  

A family friend was recently diagnosed with early-onset dementia. She forgets the details, which makes me more resolute to notice them, remember them while I can. Especially now I am seeing in high definition again, after the fog.

When we become mothers, we must respond to our infant’s immediate and pressing needs. Unlike other mammals, our babies are not fully formed when they arrive. When we witness a foal emerge, they are up on their legs within minutes. Our children’s independent movement comes much later.

Out of necessity, we prioritise our children’s needs, focusing on shepherding them through their milestones. Although they grow in their independence and the circle widens to include school and friends, we may still approach our role with the intensity of the early days.

It took me too long to realise the importance of a sense of self in motherhood after my first son was born. The razor-sharp focus I brought to parenting him has not been replicated for his brother. They are different people, and I am a different person, having been remade by each of my experiences of matrescence.

An education on matricentric feminism and the restraints of patriarchal motherhood shapes my evolving approach to mothering. Andrea O’Reilly describes patriarchal motherhood as the role description developed to hold mothers down. Patriarchal motherhood tells us we’re a good mother only if we birthed our child; we’re married to their father, if we put our child’s needs above our own and see our role as having no relationship to politics.

Patriarchal motherhood keeps us quiet and complicit because to call out the systems and structures that oppress us is to be ungrateful. Ungrateful for our child, ungrateful for the crumbs we’re offered in the form of minimum wage paid parental leave, ungrateful for the job that permanently reassigned our work and authority to the person who backfilled us.     

The way we become empowered is to acknowledge the maternal wall we face and use whatever agency we have to knock it down for ourselves and the mothers that come after us. This includes scrapping policies that reinforce patriarchal motherhood, like the childcare activity test. The approved activities don’t recognise our need to have a break, wash our hair, go to the doctor or wee alone. The test also implies our care work is less valuable than our paid workforce participation.

In June, interest rates rose for the 11th consecutive time. The Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) told us to work more hours to keep up. I know mothers are already at capacity managing their unequal share of unpaid care responsibilities alongside paid work commitments. This rhetoric about individuals needing to suck it up fails to recognise that corporate profits primarily drive the inflation the RBA seeks to manage.

Leisure, pleasure and rest should not be confined to those whose activities we can quantify in an economy that undervalues some of the most meaningful things in our lives, like care and creativity. When only the financially wealthy have time, we know the balance is off.

At this stage in my mothering journey, empowerment looks like riding my bike, returning to dance classes, writing, studying, protesting, and spending time with friends. These things replenish my energy and play with concepts of time. When I ride, dance, or sit on the porch and watch the rain fall with a friend, time is stretchy, and those hours fill me for days.  

Clock time is different from the time of nature and seasons. It is different from the time of the body and health: we do not – if left to our own devices – give birth by the clock, heal by it or die by it.

Barbara Pocock, Natalie Skinner and Pip Williams (Time Bomb: Work, Rest and Play in Australia Today). – Check out my Time Bomb post here.


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