In the university writing center I direct, staff training includes time management. In the most practical sense, I urge staff to break our sessions with writers into three achievable components. We want writers to set a goal, work actively in a session to achieve that goal, and plan next steps. At the same time, I try to convey, rather groovily, how time expands and contracts. Some writing center sessions will fly by, and others will seem roomy and fat with good writing work. Our perceptions can’t always be controlled but we can allow conversation, listening, and silence to descend, in the interest of discerning temporal abstraction. New and seasoned staff often seem skeptical of my notions about time’s expansions and contractions, and rightly so. After all, I’m telling them to be patient and chill out while they meet with multiple student writers per day, to discuss writing projects from any discipline and genre. This work requires a kind of interdisciplinary flexibility most professors—scratch that, most people—don’t have. I’m asking them to rethink time and space while nagging them to track their specific labor and development efforts in a support service that is always under threat of budget cuts. I’m asking for a lot.
Today, I’m watching my work calendar populate with committee, student, and writing meetings. Today, I’m also spreadsheeting my kid’s fall activities so that I don’t need to expend as much emotional labor on coparenting tension. It strikes me as strange, how many parents so decisively measure our time in autumn, as imposed on us by schools and culture. Some of us thrive in this linear landscape while others (read: me) somehow keep retrofitting habits of organization into our less-than-focused brains. There are no easy answers for how to navigate the societal impositions of time, but I often wonder how these frameworks affect my connections with my child and how I choose to link my parenting with my other daily work: the communities in my writing classes, the training and mentoring of writing center staff, the infinite committee meetings bemoaning the state of the educational system, the vibrant interactions with Literary Mama staff and writers, and my own research and writing. I wonder to what extent I have agency over any of this. Still, reframing our perceptions of the time we have to read, write, and think—to value the incredible and varied insights of mothers—is so worth it. We’re grateful and honored that you’re here to dip into this September/October collection of mama writing.