My Non-Deep Time of Mothering

By Emma Pearson

May 25, 2024

Main image by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

2nd May 2024

Twenty-five years ago today, 2nd May 1999, I became a mother for the first time. It was a Sunday.

Our son Ben was born at 14h10 CEST, in Annemasse, France, barely an hour after Mike and I arrived at the hospital. It had been snowing the day before – May Day, my grandmother’s 90th birthday. She was still full on in celebration mode, but I was not with her. Some months before, she had very explicitly – kindly yet firmly – told me I was not invited to her birthday celebrations in Huddersfield. While I felt more than a tad petulant on hearing the news, I was extremely grateful for her wisdom and prescience when the time to deliver a baby came along.

I wrote a bit about the conversation and some of Granny’s legacy here. As always, re-reading writing such as this piece, when I can see from the date that Julia was still very much alive, my breath catches, and I start to go down rabbit holes in my mind. So for now, quick – let’s pull myself back up, and carry on. http://www.widowingemptynests.com/2019/05/01/fete-de-granny-may/

So Ben has reached his quarter century. At some level, so hugely significant. And according to some of the reading I have done, he’s due his first major life crisis – the “Quarter life crisis”. There are myriad reasons why approx. age 25 might be crisis time – quite aside from the overwhelmingly terrifying state of the world. Even at the best of environmental times, one’s mid-20s can be fraught with questions of figuring out education, work and relationships – perhaps the biggest pillars of that life stage. Indeed significant pillars for any life stage. I know better than to speak for my adult son, but, like me at that same age, it seems that those big pillars are a source of comfort rather than distress for him – at least for now. And I know how quickly things can topple. So in case there’s any buffering power, I gladly gift and dedicate to him the beautiful Loving Kindness meditation words:

“May you be safe,
may you be healthy,
may you be happy,
may you be at peace,
may you live with ease”.

Twenty-five years ago, then, I became a mother, and Mike became a father. We became parents. We shifted from two to three, from two individuals in a partnership to a collective. We became a family. And not too much time afterwards, we had another child (four of us!) and then a third (five of us!) I loved the idea of there being more children than adults in the family – no doubt influenced by being part of a large “fratrie” myself. A form of “checks and balances” for parents not to wield too much power. How I miss those messy, full-on, parenting-mothering days.

Sometimes I can barely remember life before motherhood. Which is weird because I was 32 when I gave birth to Ben, and so it is still not even close to being half my lifetime ago. Where does time go? Where do memories go? Why are some years, some decades, so significant, and others less so? And while the intense period of parenting is over – at least in a hands-on way, and barring any crises – over time, (should I live long enough), I’ll end up having been a parent for longer than my non-parenting decades. And despite the years and decades, I suspect that I will forget much of what parenting was like. I’ve already forgotten so much. It’s all fading into the mists of time.

Soon enough it will all be insignificant in the grand scheme of Deep Time.

Last weekend I had the honour of facilitating a Deep Time Walk (*) in recognition of Earth Day. It was raining raining raining, yet despite the downpour, four brave people showed up. I was so grateful. We walked through time, through Deep Geological Time, covering 4.6 kms to represent the Earth’s lifetime of 4.6 bn years. It’s sobering to do the maths, but at that representation of scale, every metre walked signifies a million years. Every centimetre signifies 10,000 years. And each and every millimetre represents 1,000 years.

What is a lifetime?
So little. So much.
So much. So little.

In the grand and deep scheme of geological time, Ben’s life on the planet so far is 0.025 of a millimetre, or 1/40 of a millimetre. I find that simply incredible.

Inspiring. Sobering. Humbling. Momentous. Insignificant. Mystifying. Profound. Challenging. Perspective-shifting.

I frequently share that one of my favourite ways of keeping things in perspective is to ask myself, when facing a difficult or challenging situation:

“will it matter in five minutes?”
“will it matter in five hours?”
“will it matter in five days?
“will it matter in five weeks?”
“will it matter in five months?”
“will it matter in five years?”
“will it matter in five decades?”
“will it matter in five centuries?”

It’s a sure-fire way of pulling me away from toppling into a pit full of panic-inducing snakes, back to a state of relative calm.

Having reflected quite a bit recently on Time and Deep Time, I think I will start to ask myself, “will it matter in five millimetres?”

My belief and hope are that when it comes to worries and fears, the answer is a resounding NO.
But when it comes to acts of love, kindness, generosity and compassion, I believe the answer is a resounding YES.

Surely over the vast expanse of Future Deep Time, every act of love, kindness, generosity and compassion will ripple and reverberate far beyond our minuscule lives, nourishing the spirit of life itself.

* Deep Time Walk was developed by Stephan Harding and Sergio Maraschin. Find more information here: https://www.deeptimewalk.org/

Celebrating Life’s Beginnings – 900,000,000 years (give or take a few) after the creation of our Planet Earth.

About Emma Pearson

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