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  • Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

ABC's and PhD's: Time
November 16, 2010 - 9:38pm

This morning at the breakfast table (as my husband was hurriedly scheduling his day on his laptop), my seven-year-old said, “I just want a day where you don’t have to always be on your computer.” Turned out that although she agreed a day with the whole family home and no one working – my interpretation of her statement – sounded great, her immediate motivation was that she was antsy for a time when she could get on my computer to complete a school project.

I really enjoyed reading Sharon Astyk’s recent blog about “Slow time” and “Fast time” and the conflict between them. “Fast time” – time you spend meeting deadlines, on the calendar, by the clock, needing coffee – is pressured, rushed, scheduled, resource dependent – and often exciting, productive, challenging, inspiring. “Slow time” you have much less control over – it’s the time that things take to get done on their own that you can’t rush – more organic, rich, un-prescribed, no tangible end-product, and often frustrating from a fast-time perspective.

Sharon points out that humans evolution occurred mostly in a slow-time society, waiting for harvests and other events in “natural time” but we have in the last century suddenly converted much of our lives into fast-time. Of course we still have a lot of slow time in our world, but this time is often under appreciated: it’s the time you don’t get paid for, it’s time for undirected exploration, observation, building relationships and it often involves waiting and patience and unknowns. Like our ancestors, our children frequently operate on slow-time, and parenting from the get-go involves a crash-course in altering our balance of fast and slow (and not necessarily just by incorporating more “down” time; in my experience it integrated into the way I approached life and work in general). But parents and society and school work on our kids and as they get older they become in tune with favoring fast time too (like my daughter) and we build up again to a different balance edging out slow time.

As Libby declared, in her blog earlier this week, my family is also counting down to winter break. Like much of our society and academia do, my family frequently balances time by alternating long periods of intense “fast time” with breaks of “slow time” rather than integrating them. It’s getting more and more this way as my kids get older: easy to push aside “slow time”, and then only appreciate it as recovery time, to be filled with sleep or TV and lose its far more subtle productivity. What’s a good balance, and how much control do we have over this balance? That’s a complex individual decision, and may take some slow time to figure out. But I do agree with Sharon that it’s mighty good to regularly consider and recognize the merits of both kinds of time.


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