Navigating the Motherhood Maze: Response Times

Jude Simpson (poet and entertainer) is HSRBSC’s poet in residence. For more about Jude visit

When it comes to kids, my husband and I have noticeably different response times. It used to be the tiny but defining gap between the sound of a crying baby reaching my ears and reaching his. Between my half of the duvet being folded back, urgent through sleepiness, and his half being ready to – but – oh, not needed…

Now it’s the small but world-changing delay between me starting my run towards the trouble that’ll end in tears, and him realising something’s going to kick off – but that he doesn’t need to run, because I’m already on the way there…

It’s sometimes a second, sometimes two or three, sometimes only half. But that semi-second difference, played out a hundred times a month, is as potent as a full, four-seasoned year. A chasm narrow but deep, at the bottom of which lie secrets neither of us has time to unearth.

Whether he actually sees and hears things later, or his brain interprets them more slowly, or his risk-assessing processes use a different threshold – whether he factors in his faster running, stronger shoulders – or whether he simply has a greater propensity to earwax, I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. By the time he’s ready to start, I’ve started, and he doesn’t need to. Why have two parents sleepless, hoarse, or out of breath?

Sometimes a couple of seconds sums up months’ worth of working or waiting, like the phrase “I do,” or the first touch of lips, a starting pistol or pressing “send” on an email. Much good or bad can be done or undone in a brief word, and whole histories can start with a momentous moment. Which lift will arrive first, and who will be in it?

Noticing something first can be the difference between breaking a story and climbing on the bandwagon.

Some might think (and on a bad day, so do I) that those few seconds represent his get-out-of-jail-free card, his passport to peace, his cunning, self-interested dodge of responsibility. They may be right. Or they may have missed – by seconds – another angle.

Those few seconds are also my promotion, my edge, my CV, USP, time trial success, photo finish, cup-winning margin – the bothersome and covetable reason that four small mouths generally shout for me first.

That response time gap is also why he needs to listen to me to know exactly what’s going on in this little world of ours. “Come on,” I say, “it’ll only take a second”.


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