Over the centuries, the passage of time is what you see through the work you did, the changing seasons, the position of the sun. After that, the clock was born, and time became standardized; we started to count it. Since then, time has often been seen as a currency: It is ours, we can spend it, waste it or invest it; we can keep it to ourselves or give it away – and it can be taken from us.
But since our second child arrived, that metaphor has increasingly misunderstood me. While I can quite often choose how I spend my time – where I focus my attention at a certain time, where I go or who I go with – at least often, I don’t have any comments. That’s because two unpredictable factors – little children – have plunged into my life, and their innocence determines how I spend my time. Their desires, their pace and their need for repetition largely determine what we do with family time and how I feel about it.
In her book Take children seriously, American economist Nancy Folbre proposed that we conceive that parent-child relationships are not based on the “investments” parents make in their children but on “commitments” that they have done with them. I read this book on a Friday afternoon in the university library; My partner’s house with kids so I can stay until closed.
And while such a concept seems too obvious to me, at the same time it sounds pleasant. I think it is because the work of economists, sociologists, and evolutionary biologists often makes me calculate that way. I mean, the job of those people analyzing the relationship between the parents’ time investment and the “children’s outcome” as if they were talking about the production process, or as if the family were home. machine. Over time, IQ and other test scores will appear. Or someone who describes the time you spend with your children as a parent as an “opportunity cost”. After all, you may have done something different than that time: make money, for example.
From that point of view of parents and children, Folbre’s proposition was not just new; it’s almost radical. A commitment, she writes, is a promise that remains binding, even if the expected “return on investment” is still not present. Furthermore, in contrast to an investment, a commitment carries moral obligations – obligations you cannot afford to ignore if the “results” are disappointing.
In the moments when time is no longer “mine” – when it is no longer like a personal possession or a currency – then to me, at least, it is the nature of the kind of commitment there. When I see time that way, I no longer have to be hostile or possessive, I no longer feel like I’m going to shorten.
Instead, we are defined in the way that we are bound together, as a group, entangled and interdependent.
In such moments, I see our relationship as one based on the promise I made, before they were with us, and not fully understanding its meaning, that this is ours time.